In The Way to Win, two of the country ' s most accomplished political reporters explain what separates the victors from the victims in the unforgiving environment of modern presidential campaigns.
Mark Halperin, political director of ABC News, and John F. Harris, the national politics editor of The Washington Post, tell the story of how two families ' the Bushes and the Clintons ' have held the White House for nearly a generation and examine Hillary Clinton ' s prospects for extending this record in 2008. Based on years of research, including private campaign memos and White House communications, The Way to Win reveals the surprising details of how the Bushes and Clintons have closely studied each the other ' s successes and failures and used these lessons to shape their own strategies for winning elections and wielding power.
In the case of George W. Bush, the strategic genius is Karl C. Rove, arguably the most influential White House aide in history. For the first time, Halperin and Harris cut through the myths and controversies surrounding Rove to illuminate in brilliant, behind ' the ' scenes detail what he actually does ' his Trade Secrets for winning elections.
In the case of the Clintons, the chief strategist is Bill Clinton himself. Drawing on their fifteen years reporting on and interviewing him, Halperin and Harris deconstruct and decipher the Clinton style, identifying the methods that all candidates can use in their pursuit of the White House.
The Way to Win takes a lively and irreverent approach, but Halperin and Harris also show the disturbing ways that American politics has become a Freak Show ' their name for a political culture that provides incentives for candidates, activists, interest groups, and the news media to emphasize ideological extremism and personal attack. For the first time, Halperin and Harris describe how Freak Show campaigns orchestrated by the likes of Internet pioneer Matt Drudge forced Al Gore and John Kerry to lose control of their public images (with considerable help from the candidates ' own ineptitude) and lose the White House.
On the brink of what will be one of the most intense, most exciting presidential elections in American history, The Way to Win is the book that armchair political junkies have been waiting for. Filled with peerless analysis and eye ' opening revelations from the trenches, it is a must read for everyone who follows American politics.
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October 03, 2006
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Excerpt from The Way to Win by Mark Halperin
The collection of winners on that Little Rock stage was the most striking image from the Clinton Library opening. But also in attendance, sitting in the crowd, was a pair of distinguished losers.
Al Gore and John Kerry had never been close, despite the many years they served together in Washington. Now they shared a special bond. Both had been beaten by a man they believed to be less articulate, less capable, less experienced, less virtuous, less worthy, and less intelligent than they. Both had been preparing for the presidency since they were young men, spurred not just by ambition, but by colleagues, friends, and mentors who for a generation had been anticipating their eventual candidacies. Gore and Kerry long had stood out as quintessential strivers, even among fellow senators. Now they looked up through the rain at a man whom almost no one had regarded as presidential material until a couple of years before he got the job. Neither Gore nor Kerry seemed to grasp the reasons for what both considered a cruel hoax of history.
Gore had had four years to contemplate his loss, but for Kerry, the sting of defeat was still fresh that morning. An instinctually competitive man, he had served notice immediately after Election Day that he was eager to try again for the presidency in 2008. To his face, Kerry got handshakes, praise for a race well run, and condolences that the better man had not won. Behind his back, in Little Rock hotel bars filled with visiting Democrats, the notion of Kerry running again for president was greeted with derision and mockery, even by people who two weeks earlier had been on his payroll.
If this were a book about all the reasons John Kerry lost the 2004 election, it would be too heavy to hold. John Kerry was beaten by John Kerry, who never overcame the limitations of his diffident personality. He was beaten by George W. Bush, who was by far the savvier politician. Deep thinkers might say Kerry was beaten by history, since Democrats for nearly forty years had been at a stark disadvantage when national security was the dominant issue in voters minds. Here is another nominee for who beat John Forbes Kerry: Matthew Drudge.
If you are reading this book, you probably know who Matt Drudge is. It is a guarantee that most of the reporters, editors, producers, and talk show bookers who serve up the daily national buffet of news recently have checked out his eponymous website, and that www.drudgereport.com is bookmarked on their computers. That is one reason Drudge is the single most influential purveyor of information about American politics.
Drudge, with his droll Dickensian name, was not the only media or politi- cal agent whose actions led to John Kerry s defeat. But his role placed him at the center of the game a New Media World Order in which Drudge was the most potent player in the process and a personification of the dynamics that did Kerry in. Drudge and his ilk made Kerry toxic and unelectable.
Toxicity is the new defining trait of modern American politics. The toxins themselves are not new. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton initially clashed like gentlemen (albeit venomously) over the limits of federal power and the future of the economy, but when news of Hamilton s saucy mistress Maria Reynolds surfaced, thanks to nonpartisan busybody James Callender, Jefferson was content to let the accusatory pamphlets fly.