[PDF / Epub] ❤ What It Takes: The Way to the White House ✅ Richard Ben Cramer – Dailytradenews.co.uk



10 thoughts on “What It Takes: The Way to the White House

  1. says:

    Gigantic work of political reporting and a huge accomplishment It s a comfort to read Cramer s close examination of the 1988 primaries and remember that campaigns are always nutty The overriding thesis of the book is smart a deep look at 6 very different figures Bush Dole Dukakis Biden Gephardt Hart that examines the moments that made them want to be president, paired with a beat by beat walk through of the challenges to those identities during their runs.Though the inside information is good, this book is much important for its style, a bizarre mix of Thompson and Pynchon that somehow inhabits each politicians voice, to particular effect with the dour, ever working, tragic hero Dole, the always charismatic Biden, and, surprisingly, the sporty, friendly, bubble bound Bush the senior Subtle differences in cadence and unsubtle differences in vocabulary immediately ground you in the minds of the candidates He doesn t find such success with Gary Hart, but the PLOT of Hart s failure is so Shakespearean and wonderful that his sections still have good momentum.My one regret, and Cramer cops to it, is that he didn t see Jesse Jackson coming The Gephardt sections are flat, and Dukakis is never that interesting which probably says something about the choice that was made in 88 I understand that an 1000 page book about a 26 year old election isn t going to hook all of you, but this is a gem.


  2. says:

    This is about as good as it gets, as close as American politics offers to a mortal lock On this night, October 8, 1986, the Vice President is coming to the Astrodome, to Game One of the National League Championship Series, and the nation will be watching from its La Z Boys as George Bush stands front and center, glistening with America s holy water play off juice Oh, and here s the beauty part he doesn t have to say a thing He s just got to throw out the first ball He ll be hosted by the Astros ownerhe ll be honored by the National League and the Great Old Game he ll be cheered by 44,131 fans and not even a risky crowd, the kind that might get testy because oil isn t worth a damnNo, those guys can t get tickets tonight This is a play off crowd, a corporate perks crowd, the kind of fellows who were transferred in a few years ago from Stamford Conn., you know, for that new marketing thing and were, frankly, delighted by the price of housing , a solid GOP crowd, tax conscious, white and polite they re wearing sports coats, and golf shirts with emblems vice presidents all Richard Ben Cramer, What It Takes The Way to the White HouseSo begins one of the classic works of American politics A huge, giddy, breathless ride that leaves you exhausted.Just like politics leaves you exhausted There is no better time to read Richard Ben Cramer s What it Takes For years, now, we ve been locked in the midst of one of the longest, most deplorable political cycles in American history Like no time since the height of the Vietnam War, domestic politics has become a blood feud, tearing apart friends and families and co workers Politics has infused every aspect of our lives, even our sporting events It is hard to watch it is hard to escape Thus, you are probably asking yourself Why would I want to read about politics But here s the thing What it Takes is an excellent way to get your political fix without having to pay attention to what s currently unfolding before your eyes It takes you back to the 1988 presidential campaign, and even though it wasn t necessarily clean Lee Atwater was involved, after all at least none of the candidates felt the need to talk about the length of their penis Bob Dole s Viagra commercials would eventually force us, implicitly, to think about his penis However, in 1988, that was still in the future What it Takes is unlike most books I ve ever read The closest comparison, both in size and authorial audacity, might be Norman Mailer s The Executioner s Song Insert your own joke about whether it s pleasant to read about a convicted killer or political aspirants Cramer, a fantastic journalist who died in 2013, announces at the outset his intention get into the heads of the men who want to be President of the United States To know what kind of life would lead a man to think he ought to be President Cramer accomplishes this feat by delivering a dazzling, dizzying, intensely detailed 6 person biography He digs deep into the cores of Republicans George H.W Bush and Robert Dole, and Democrats Michael Dukakis, Richard Gephardt, Joe Biden, and Gary Hart This is a rare book that manages to achieve an intimacy with its subjects It s hard enough to penetrate the psyche of an ordinary person, much less a politician who is trying to present himself as fit to lead the free world What Cramer accomplishes is almost breathtaking You go inside the heads of these guys You gain a psychological understanding of what made them who they are Most biographies are content to tell you what happened, and when This is the rare work that tells you what happened, when, and most importantly, why that matters at all Like all masterpieces, What it Takes presents certain challenges The first and most obvious is size As in 1,051 pages of text There are no endnotes or source notes whatsoever This is troubling, of course, but perhaps necessary to keep the book from being the size of a human infant clutching a full grown Chihuahua That s a lot of pages Moreover, I must add at the risk of sounding a million years old that the font is really, really small Fortunately, What it Takes is broken down into 130 chapters and an epilogue, meaning that most chapters are fairly short Cramer writes with a kinetic energy that he manages to maintain throughout his book s prodigious length I don t know how he did it Even reading, I had to stop to take a breath The detail is of the impossible, person in the room variety There are long portions of quoted dialogue There are internal monologues There is stream of consciousness There are a lot of ellipses There are of course a trove of exclamation points Cramer even goes to lengths to capture the actual speech patterns of the candidates At first, this seems ridiculous Eventually, like everything else, it works by serving to heighten the feeling that you know these people That you re with them Cramer captures their lives in moments big and small Bush getting shot down during World War II off the island of Chichi Jima Dole suffering serious wounds while serving in Italy Biden leading the Senate revolt against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork Hart leaving his campaign after his womanizing comes to light Cramer gives you the exhausting day to day of life on the campaign trail No viewpoint goes neglected He even provides an entire page through the eyes of a motorcycle cop in Bush s motorcade As it was, they spent half their lives waiting it was dreariest when the schedule got busted and H hour came and went and nobody even knew any what was supposed to happen But with George Bush, they could fire up their gleaming Harleys at H hour minus five, and he d be there, with his crew in the cars, right on the hour Then came the part that was their specialty, as they roared away from Ellington Field, southeast of town, and onto the open concrete of I 45, where seven or eight of their buddies had already closed the first few ramps and held back traffic on the northbound side Not a car, not one truck in the way And another half dozen men in jodhpurs would peel away from the motorcade, and throw their hogs wide open sixty, seventy, eighty miles per hour roaring up to the next ramps to close them until the motorcade sailed by And after the trailing Harleys passed, they d open those ramps again and thunder on past the motorcade with the wind keening off their farings and flattening their smiles inside their helmets ninety, a hundred, if they could past the motorcade again to block off the ramps and road aheadThat limo was never gonna need a brake job Never had to stop not while these boys were around.None of this is delivered chronologically, meaning you have to pay attention There are six different timelines to keep track of For example, Cramer starts his book with Bush in the present day 1988 timeline Then he jumps all the way back to World War II to cover Bush s time as a naval aviator He uses this same technique for every candidate Sometimes, the chapter title will give you the dateline At other times, though, Cramer just thrusts you into the middle of a scene It can be a bit vexing, until you realize that the chronology isn t as important as the effect Cramer has achieved These lives are a puzzle that is only gradually solved Politics today are, in a word, dehumanizing Cramer s greatest attribute is his humanness His empathy for every single person he covers Their triumphs and tragedies And there are a lot of tragedies marking these men The death of three year old Robin Bush of leukemia The death of Joe Biden s wife and one year old child in a car accident The substance abuse struggles of Kitty Dukakis All these instances give resonance to the paths taken by each of the candidates If Cramer has a favorite, I d venture it s Dole, whose painful war wound recovery Cramer follows in excruciating detail But he gives every man their due and lets you see the world from their perspectives I feel like this kind of humanizing has an extraordinary power I wonder, for instance, if Bush knew that Gephardt s young son had cancer And if that knowledge might have bridged politics Refreshingly, Cramer is not out to get anyone If he has a target, it is the ratings obsessed media covering the candidates He is clearly irritated at the sordid, pre Clinton take down of Gary Hart by journalists who hounded his family and paramour Donna Rice Cramer never lectures, though Indeed, What it Takes serves as a compelling rebuke to facile, sensationalist reporting without saying anything at all One downside to Cramer s intense, personal approach is that you lose any sight of the broader context If you for some reason really just want to know the nuts and bolts of the 1988 Presidential campaign, What it Takes will certainly disappoint you It entirely ignores candidates other than his chosen six Even after 1,000 plus pages I didn t know who all participated in the race There are only passing references, for instance, to Jesse Jackson s surprise run in the Democratic primaries Hint If you read this, the Paul Simon that Cramer refers to is the Democratic Senator from Illinois known for his affected bowtie It turns out that the famous singer did not make a bid for U.S President It should also be noted that Cramer does not get to the Iowa caucuses until roughly 800 pages into his story The actual general election is not even covered This might have pissed me off, but it makes a certain kind of sense What happened is not interesting to Cramer Anyone can find out what happened He is, to the end, concerned with the candidates themselves Today s political titles like Game Change traffic heavily in gossip, backstabbing, and score settling Don t get me wrong It s entertaining as hell to read But it s also so fleeting and transitory that you don t remember a thing There is no deeper purpose they seek no meaning Those kinds of books are written in sidewalk chalk What it Takes is a monument chiseled in stone A monument not solely to the candidates, but to the art of writing itself.


  3. says:

    I m reposting this review today because the e book version of this is on sale at for 2, or a.0005 per page Tempting me to buy an electronic copy of a long book I ve already read, that I probably won t ever read again.But if you haven t read this one, I really recommend it Re reading my review I found a handful of pretty bad grammatical mistakes, leading me to question my long held disbelief in proof reading Hopefully, corrected the most glaring one s and I apologize for not catching them earlier.Maybe it s just a function of my age, I was three at the time, but the 1988 election has never really seemed that notable to me I may be a child of Reagan, but George H.W Bush was president when I first grasped a notion of what a president was, so I may have seen the 88 election through an aura of inevitability Politics and opinions aside, George Bush will always be the bedrock for my conception of president 88 seems the Young Americans of presidential elections, a not particularly noteworthy event wedged between two groundbreaking eras Reagan Revolution Ziggy and Clinton Administration Berlin Trilogy Does such a seemingly foregone conclusion as Bush beating Mike Dukakis deserve such a massive tome Because Richard Ben Cramer s What It Takes is certainly foreboding 1,047 pages filled with tightly packed text in a small font That 1,047 pages is earned too, there s not stat padding commonly found in history books Because the book is based off of original reporting there is no bibliography, end notes section, or even an index I m a political junkie, as soon as I read about this book I knew I would end up devouring it But this amount of work devoted to a not particularly interesting election which resulted in a one term presidency may seem indulgent to those with a less fervent fascination First off, all indications otherwise, it s not entirely accurate to say What It Takes is about the 88 election In fact, judged as a history of the 88 election this book is a disappointment I ll get into what exactly this book is shortly, but to give you an idea of what we re dealing with, the results of the Iowa caucus, the first actually meaningful raw data of 88 campaign, are first discussed on page 867 That leaves 180 pages for, well 1988 Cramer s main narrative closes before the national conventions, and his 30 page epilogue opens up on Election Day Obviously this would be a problem if the book solely aspired to be a blow by blow account of a political campaign So, if the book isn t a piece of conventional history or straight up journalism, what is it Cramer s goal in writing this book were to examine what type of human willingly puts himself through the process and the effect of process on the human To do this Cramer, starting in 1986, spent a baffling amount of time with six potential candidates, four democrats and two republicans Those candidates were Bush, Bob Dole, Dukakis, Gary Hart, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Biden The access that the text hints at is extraordinary in itself The behind the scenes account Crammer was able to get almost demands a behind the scenes account itself The book is basically a close third person narrative of each of the six candidates Cramer isn t trying to be objective, instead he gives the reader something like a candidates eye view of the events He effectively inserts the reader inside the heads of one of the candidates Because of this, the book is extremely sympathetic to each of the six main figures In many ways the book is an exercise in empathy, and readers are likely to empathize with a book s characters when they, at some level, like the characters Politics aside, Cramer mostly succeeds in this Perhaps the most impressive achievement of What It Takes is that it not only convinces the reader to like six politicians, but that the reader likes six politicians who are adversaries He does this by interspersing biographic episodes into the narrative The reader gets to know each of the candidates These episodes are much focused on the upbringing and family life of the candidates than their political history For instance, space is dedicated to the Congressional career of Prescott Bush than George Bush What It Takes is concerned about where each of the candidates are coming from than the specifics of the their political career The book is concerned with the broad process rather than the details, so Cramer is able to avoid getting into specific issues which would detract from a reader s sympathy Cramer doesn t interrupt the narrative to interject any editorializing or different perspectives Cramer may use the events of the narrative and the candidate s biography to subtly hint at specific character flaws But these flaws are human flaws, not the frivolous and general sound bite associated gaffes and misteps obsessed over by the media in modern elections The only way one of the candidates will be directly criticized is through another candidate Through this narrative technique, a specific criticism will seem unfair in one chapter and then justified in the next What It Takes is mainly concerned with depicting the personal struggle with the process of a presidential race As such, the actual events leading up to the 88 election are mere background to the personal drama Cramer is interested in The actual history of the campaign weaves in and out of Cramer s narrative as it suits the story Some stuff is dealt with in detail, some stuff is ignored altogether The 88 election is to What It Takes as to the Napoleonic Wars were to War and Peace That being said, it s worth noting that the quality of the work is lessened during the last few hundred pages Again, considering the parameters of the book, this isn t surprising The book is entirely based on original journalism, so the quality of the work inevitably depended on the access Cramer was able to achieve Once votes started being cast, Cramer s access to the remaining candidates must have been severely curtailed Another thing worth considering is that this book was published in 1992 I think it s fair to criticize Cramer for inadequately anticipating future readers For a book that sets out to be about something timeless in the way America selects its leader, it can often be weighted in the time it was written Throughout the book there are dated pop culture references and sly allusions to events that would take place later that modern readers may not catch Also, I know I have been stressing that the book is about the process than the specific events of 1988, but Cramer s almost complete neglect of the general election make a 1,000 page book seem incomplete I m not asking for a couple hundred pages, but when we leave the main narrative Dukakis is up by double percentage points before the conventions and then we cut to Bush giving his acceptance speech I m not sure if he was facing publishing deadlines or what, but even 20 pages of summary would have been nice Wolfe s The Right Stuff, for instance, is about much than the history of the Mercury Program, but all the same, still manages to be somewhat comprehensive about the subject it is using as a simulacrum of larger trends The absence of this here is the reason I m docking a star.I was going to go into the specifics of the 1988 election, but I ve gone on long enough Suffice it to say, whether it s Cramer s writing or the candidates themselves, the six main figures are written in a vibrant and compelling manner The book works as a character study of six compellingly different, but somewhat similar, figures who had the courage or the egomania or the delusional capability to think that they should be Commander in Chief, and the willingness to serve, or, at least the egomania, to put themselves and their family through the process I gained much respect and insight on George H.W Bush, my bedrock president Bob Dole figures simultaneously fully justifies the Norm McDonald SNL sketches and becomes so much What It Takes presents real questions about how American democracy works The most surprising thing about the book is how Cramer treats the political media, which comes off as a sort of demented Greek chorus, insisting on snooty comments on a candidate s sex life and focused exclusively on perceived character issues while Athens burns Cramer depicts the media as obsessed with chasing the hot story or the daily soundbite at the expense of substance George Bush was able to get elected by producing quality b reel and spouting drivel because his team figured out the game Gary Hart, who comes off as a less sleazy Bill Clinton, was hounded from the race by faux Puritanical press whose real motive was moving copy Dukakis, an effective bureaucrat but a lousy politician, was able to coast to the nomination and never forced to get his head out of his ass until Bush started hammering him with Willie Horton Cramer begins the book asking who would want to be President knowing what they would have to submit themselves to Since 88 the process has only gotten noticeably worse With few exceptions, Warren Beatty s prophecy, made after his friend Gary Hart had to bow out of the race after the Donna Rice scandal have come true When forced to show all, people become all show What It Takes shows that there is a healthy portion of egomania that drives someone to office, but there is also, or at least there was a generation ago, healthy portions of decency and commitments to serve Whether that s always going to be the case, or is the case even now, remains to be seen To extend this completely ridiculous analogy of Bowie albums to U.S presidential elections 72 The Man Who Sold the World probably just because of the song , 76 Hunky Dory, 80 Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, 84 Diamond Dogs and not just because of the song , 88 Young Americans, 92 Station to Station, 96 Low, 00 Let s Dance This makes sense to me, but to explain it I would need 5,000 words and hours of spare time Which given the wide cast of characters, around a dozen important campaign officials in each of the six different campaigns, would have been useful Fair warning What It Takes is much indebted to Tom Wolfe than Theodore White The text is full of gonzoisms that can be well placed or irritating or both For instance, Cramer uses a variety of techniques, keywords, and phrases to distinguish each of the candidate s perspective Examples use of the third person, the preamble Argh, and phonetic Midwestern drawl for Dole brash, cockiness for Biden repeated use of the word neat for Gephardt Cramer also uses a healthy portion of italics and elipsis to simulate stream of consciousness Generally, this didn t bother me but I found myself sometimes wishing he would tone it down just a little bit About 10 pages of the 30 page epilogue deal with Bush and Dukakis immediately after the election, and involves some reference to the general campaign If George W Bush was born on third base and thought he hit a triple, H.W was walked on favorable calls, earned a hard earned steal of second, and reached third on a sacrifice fly If it was on Youtube I would have linked to the Bob Dole on Real World sketch.


  4. says:

    One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama That s not you Whether it is good or bad, it is not you I learned that on the campaign President Barack Obama, speaking to Michael Lewis in October 2012 What It Takes is widely considered a classic among hardcore political buffs, campaign reporters and political scientists, on the level of Robert Caro s LBJ trilogy Richard Ben Cramer has the less earth shaking subject of the 1988 presidential election, and it might seem strange to dedicate 1100 pages to a relatively unimportant election Cramer also largely omits the Jesse Jackson campaign, missing out on what s now considered a necessary precursor to Barack Obama s election But that s part of the secret genius of the book this is a representative sample of a broader trend, and the larger picture of campaign season, in all its all consuming insanity A similar book could be written about 1968, or 2008, and the essential basis of the book would remain the same.Cramer profiles six candidates George H W Bush and Bob Dole for the Republicans, Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, Dick Gephardt and Joe Biden for the Democrats Cramer is a very insightful biographer, and I was impressed at how compelling he was able to make all six An early pair of chapters recounting the World War II experiences of Bush and Dole, respectively, is a wonderful account of the American class experience during wartime Bush was a bomber pilot in the Pacific, and most of his wartime experience was pastries and volleyball games and the occasional terrifying bombing run Dole was an infantry officer in Italy, meaning that he was basically target practice for German snipers and spent his free time eating cold beans out of a can and trying not to get trenchfoot Cramer is also a very readable writer about campaigning, although if you thought his writing was purple I wouldn t argue So is Robert Caro, for that matter The first chapter of the book is about George Bush going to a baseball game to throw out the first pitch in 1986, which doesn t sound like much of a story But in Cramer s hands it s both a blisteringly funny portrayal of the bubble a Vice President doesn t go to a public place without the involvement of dozens of people for thousands of man hours and a sharp insight into Bush s personality Cramer is even better with the big set pieces of the story, from Gary Hart being caught with Donna Rice leading to a media siege that sounds frankly nightmarish to the revelation of Kitty Dukakis pill addiction What It Takes is about the American obsession with the Presidency, as seen by the people who aspire to the office Americans, even very well educated Americans, tend to reduce complex political situations to a very personalized story about the President The current stalemate and broader institutional failure in Congress gets reduced to, Why won t Obama lead Surely if he would lead, the votes would be there Lyndon Johnson is elevated to a cornpone genius famous for the Treatment that dominated all who came near him and through sheer force of will pulled the Great Society from Congress.Of course, no real person is actually like that So in Cramer s account, a presidential campaign is the art of seeming ever like that person, by putting your whole life on display while simultaneously retelling it in mythic and politically convenient terms Think of Obama again, saying In no other country on Earth is my story even possible Even for the healthy egos who run for President, the experience can be very alienating Here s Dick Gephardt, on going into and out of the bubble No, they told you to be yourself, but they didn t want you to be like yourself They wanted you to be like a President They wanted you to be huge for them I ll tell you the weird part is when you stop I was in Louisiana Little town I don t think they d had a Presidential candidate since, uh Millard Fill So, I get there, and there s cops and motorcycles, and a limousine the size of Ohio There s the Mayor, and marching bands and they treat me like the King of Spain I do my speech, I get back in the limo, get to the airport and two hours later, I m back in O Hare hauling my suitcase off the place carry it half a mile I gotta wait in line for a lousy hot dog All of a sudden, I m back, I m a a, uh He was hunting a word I m a, uh a shit bum Of course, the national press plays a large part in whether somebody looks like a President or not, and Cramer is none too kind to them cynical but prone to credulous groupthink, obsessed with character while reducing candidates to a few simple traits George H W Bush had a WASP s breeding, an near obsessive capacity for cultivating friends, and played the good soldier for Ronald Reagan to secure the nomination in 1988 The media took this to mean that Bush was a wimp, and was surprised to discover in the general election, in Panama, in the Gulf War that Bush was a man who could not lose a competition, who would not stop until his enemy had been defeated.And the only way to win is to give up everything in its pursuit In the end, we have only one nonnegotiable demand for a President, the man we hire to watch the world at our backs that is totality We will not allow anything to be put ahead of it, not friends, family, nor certainly rosy self regard nor ease, restoration of self forget it It s an indication of Cramer s achievement that this seems like a minor tragedy.


  5. says:

    This book is the opposite of a light read It s not something you can just have on the nightstand and casually dip in and out of every once in a while It s a book that you wrestle with and try not to get bucked off That being said, it s probably one of my favorite books of all time Even though the book is twenty years old, it feels totally relevant Cramer does than anyone else I ve ever read to actually make sense of the absurd machine of modern American politics, to diagram how all the different pieces the candidates, the money, the media, the handlers, the voters fit together You get to understand what kind of bubble candidates and officeholders live in, and the conflicting incentives at play More than anything he does a damn good job of answering the core question of the book, which is, what kind of person has the gall to think they ought to be president By the end, you feel like you really know all the candidates also, in a depressing commentary on career politicians, a surprising number of them are still on the scene, including current VP Joe Biden The best part is that Cramer only shows, never tells, but he still manages to get everything across In the end, this book is part farce, part tragedy, and it s hard to which is sadder what happens to the people who don t win, or what happens to the people who do I could go on about this book for hours it really and truly blew me away.


  6. says:

    This book This incredible, huge, infuriating, impossible, gorgeous and utterly mind bending book.I ve been reading this book at night now for what has to be months and months I picked it up because the guy who runs Political Wire recommended it It s 1400 pages long, or so the Nook tells me, but it s worth it The story Richard Ben Cramer has to tell is so vast and expansive that it merits the length This is the story of the 1988 presidential campaign, but it s also much than that It s the backstory of many of the main participants though, sadly, not Pat Robertson or Jesse Jackson from Joe Biden to Bob Dole to Michael Dukakis and George H.W Bush The book explores their lives, their campaigns, their formative experiences, and what made them really tick It s the story of how 1988 s campaign was a disaster for them, how it chewed them and their wives and staffers up and spat them out It s the story of a fickle, sensationalist and distracted national press, and how the press formed the campaign But mostly it s a very human story of the men who offered themselves up to the great primal beast of American presidential politics, and paid for it.The writing is gorgeous I ve never seen anyone capture American dialect and speech patterns like this The commentary on the system is laced throughout the book, and it s both cutting and utterly heartbreaking.If you are obsessed with American politics and want to read a great book on politicians and their campaigns, this is the book for you Recommended without reservation.


  7. says:

    What It Takes by Richard Ben CramerIt is rare that I will encounter a book that I have not heard of before and while reading it realise I am reading a masterwork of the genre Rarer still for a book that seems so focussed and myopic in its scope but that which takes such joy in its topic this being the 1988 lead up to the US Presidential Elections and, without trying, prompts easy reflections on one s current life As mentioned, the book covers the Presidential candidature run of six people for the Democrats Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, Dick Gephardt and Joe Biden For the Republicans Bob Dole a personal favourite to read about for his amazing energy, will and down to earth attitude and George Bush The book is six biographies in one, told from boyhood to just after the election with key moments of their lives told and how it shaped them for public office.Ben Cramer s book is meticulously researched to an intense level of detail It would be worth a short book in itself or a documentary on how he managed such access and ability to capture the lives, emotions and motivations of major political players in the US system So intense are the specifics, you almost forget that some parts must be filling or at least slightly inaccurate due to their being just reflections of people there at the time It really is amazing.From the language, to the highs and lows of the wins and defeats you will feel your own emotions move as you become invested in these people and sometimes the staffers who make ongoing appearances Sometimes sections stick out like It was the moment when the guys in suits stop telling the candidate the truth Or So, in the NBC debate, Gephardt takes out a.357 Magnum, and blows Bambi s head off There are some great moments.The names and lingo are all here wise guys, smart guys, button guys, guys in the know, advance teams, big foots, diddybops etc From the hyper masculine advisors of Gephardt often referred to just as The Killers to Bush s own white men , it s a taste of a world you wouldn t normally see The curtain is pulled back and it is not only very human in all its mixes of brilliance and ugliness but you realise that sometimes the election machine really is just making it up as it goes along.Not once does Cramer break the fourth wall by speaking in the first person until the epilogue At that point he starts to give some personal views of what he sees when speaking to the candidates or observing the then President on the toll their run has taken both financial, physical and psychological It s quite clever in this change of point of view right at the end like a victory lap to observe the course just run which of course, it is.The book is split into three parts but essentially is just one large piece It is over 1000 pages the Iowa Primary only takes place in the mid 800 s To be honest, the very worst chapter is the first In this chapter you follow the then Vice President Bush on his visit to a baseball game With no idea of how the stories in this book are told I found it confusing and almost put me off completely But it is so worth it to continue.Cramer s prose is easy to read as a journalist he had a real talent with writing and he shapes the book and its tempo well Some chapters are very short for extra impact one involving the attempted reconciliation of Michael Dukakis and his former Chief of Staff Campaign Manager is just one page long but only needs to be that way for its point and impact to be made.The book is a real gem If you love political science, modern US history, US politics or just a politics junkie in general, you will want to read this book.I honestly think anyone who takes an interest in politics from an educational point of view should read this The memories and stories from it are going to stick with me for my entire life For this, I will be very glad.5 5 stars.


  8. says:

    Is there such a thing as being too definitive The late Richard Ben Cramer s titanic deep dive into the 1987 88 presidential primary season is rightly regarded as the last word on the crazy making rigors of electoral politics in this country Hard to argue books like Game Change, and similar attempts to go behind the scenes with the insiders, are but superficial imitators to the throne in comparison.The level of commitment from Cramer is awe inspiring, likely rivaled only by Robert A Caro s multi volume biography of Lyndon Johnson in the category of total immersion But at least Caro has been writing for nearly 40 years about one man Cramer somehow managed to follow six different campaigns around in real time over a two year stretch, apparently leaving no stone unturned and unpacking each candidate s life story in indelible detail at great cost to his own health, it turns out.The depth of reportage isn t the only thing that distinguishes What It Takes Cramer, a disciple of the New Journalism school of writing, gets so deep inside the heads of his six candidates and their families and their handlers that the narrative voice goes somewhere beyond omniscience You can actually hear these people speaking you ll never listen to a clip of Bob Dole the same way again If you, like me, are under 40, you may have a hard time recalling much about Dick Gephardt or Dole not counting his weird turn as a Viagra pitch man , but George Bush and Joe Biden are very much still with us, and Cramer absolutely nails them The only way he could have done this is by spending hundreds upon hundreds of hours alongside them, listening and listening hard Nor does Cramer even feign objectivity He clearly loves his characters and eschews the kneejerk, smart ass cynicism that characterizes most political books post Watergate Cramer reportedly spent a lot of time chewing the fat with George Bush s eldest son, the future president himself In an age when most presidential campaigns are treated like game shows than a serious vetting of potentially important people, Cramer s reverent treatment of his subjects feels almost revolutionary.What cynicism there is gets leveled at his fellow journalists the diddybops , who clearly don t have the dedication he has to really understand these Men Who Would Be President, preferring instead the drive by, salacious exposes of the kind that ended Hart s campaign.For the most part, I greatly enjoyed my week long experience reading this book Once you get acclimated to Cramer s amphetaminic writing style, filled with ellipses and colloquialisms and whatever else he could throw into the hopper, it becomes compulsively readable That he was able to make Michael Dukakis seem like the most compelling person in the world for a while is reason enough to exalt him.Ultimately, what holds What It Takes back are the candidates themselves Perhaps the head down, drama free governance of Gephardt and Dukakis are admirable qualities in a president, but as fodder for a thousand page, small font book, well, there are only so many layers to uncover By the time I headed for the final quarter of the book, right when things should have been at their most dramatic, I was really starting to get fatigued by the whole project I get it Mike Dukakis thinks he s above down and dirty politics George Bush will never say anything to hurt the president I don t need 150 pages on this.Plus, the two most fascinating men of the six, Joe Biden and Gary Hart, are forced to end their campaigns earlier than expected, and you better believe their loss in the overall narrative is felt over the last 300 pages Even Cramer, with all his razzle dazzle prose, can t bring up the energy level to compensate And the MOST fascinating man in the entire race, Jesse Jackson, isn t covered at all.Then, after 950 pages of exhaustive primary campaign play by play, the general election gets only a chapter, touching only briefly on the things that people actually remember about the otherwise bland 1988 election cycle Willie Horton, Read my lips, Dukakis wonky strikeout on the capital punishment question And there s no mention at all of Lloyd Bentsen s extraordinary takedown of Dan Quayle, nor any mention of the Tank Oh Lord, THE TANK But what this book does well it does better than just about anything else you ll ever read about what running for national office actually entails, the real cost it exacts on these all to0 human people Small wonder that a new generation of political writers now take it as a point of departure, bestowing on it the lofty reputation it didn t get when it came out in 1992 No doubt Cramer would say that the point of the book wasn t to get into the nitty gritty of a political campaign, it was about the PEOPLE, and that s why you have to wait 800 pages before a single vote is even cast, but even still, I wasn t prepared for how quickly Cramer dispensed with the Bush Dukakis campaign Or else he was as bored with it as everyone else.


  9. says:

    Massive book about the kinds of people who have the unusual drive to enter politics on a national scale Not about campaign strategy so much as personal motivations and biographies Very interesting for anybody interested in politicking.


  10. says:

    3.5 starsI picked this up because it is supposed to be a must read for political junkies Aaron Sorkin required that cast members read it during the production of The West Wing.It is very readable and effective in humanizing the six chosen characters of the 1988 election, so from that standpoint the book was a great success However, many reviews describe this book as exhaustive , and at nearly 1100 pages it certainly should be I found it frustratingly sketchy on many details The first votes of the primary season are not cast until page 900, and there is virtually no coverage of the post convention general election.The 88 election had many moments that are now famous Dukakis riding in the tank never mentioned Read my lips, no new taxes one sentence Senator, you re no Jack Kennedy never mentioned Quayle and Bentsen are nowhere to be found The Willie Horton ad two paragraphs In a book that devotes multiple chapters to Kitty Dukakis diet pill habit, and at least 20 pages on the political career of George Bush s father, I was really looking forward to those moments being explored in detail By the time it became clear that it was never going to happen I became pretty frustrated.


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What It Takes: The Way to the White House download What It Takes: The Way to the White House, read online What It Takes: The Way to the White House, kindle ebook What It Takes: The Way to the White House, What It Takes: The Way to the White House 1216be0dd507 What Happens When A Man Sacrifices Privacy For Power What Drives A Politician To Risk The Ruin Of His Family, His Marriage, His Children, For The Sake Of Ambition Why Can T A Candidate Ever Explain Himself To The Electorate, Communicate What He Dreams About Or What He Wants Why Can T Someone Attempting To Become The Planet S Most Powerful Official Ever Fulfill His Own Needs Or Desires In , Richard Ben Cramer, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist, Embarked On A Reportorial Enterprise Without Parallel He Would Explore The Lives Of The Candidates Who Would Run For President In And Try To Discover What Convinced Them They Could Lead The United States Of America InWhat It Takes, Cramer Answers The Above Questions About Six Of The Contenders Including George Herbert Walker Bush He Sets A New Standard For Research And Daring, And Does For Politicians What Tom Wolfe Did For Astronauts In The Right StuffNot A Book About Politics Or The Intricacies Of Campaigns, What It Takesuses Novelistic Detail To Provide The Most Startlingly Intimate Glimpse Of The American Heart On The Way To The White HouseA Bona Fide American Epic What It Takes Is The Most Extraordinary Book Ever Written About Our Political Culture