Monday, June 25, 2012


Bob Dole, 1942

Now reading: Chapters Four to Nine (pages 80 to 158).

Check back on Sunday for a running discussion. Until then, tweet thoughts and quotes with the hashtag #wit2012.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

DISCUSSION: Chapters One to Three

Poppy Bush & The Bobster, Washington D.C., August 6, 1986.
So by now, we have a feel for what What It Takes is like. It moves fast between men and time periods, drawing subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle?) parallels and themes. I happen to think nothing is by accident.

George Bush is "flyin' around" with the advantages of the vice presidency while Bob Dole is doing the yeoman's work of the 1986 campaign. It's George Herbert Walker's grandson versus a boy of the Dust Bowl. Bush was a knower (faces, names) and Dole was a doer (holding his bad arm up like that). We have not yet been shown the intervening events that filled out their characters, but here we're getting the base colors.

What did you think? What struck you? I'll share more thoughts in the comments.

One more thought: of the six men in this book, Cramer begins with the two whose lives were the most challenging to capture. Bush, at the time of the book's writing, was vice president and then president. And as Cramer describes, Dole's handwriting is scant and illegible, and I doubt he's spent much time at a keyboard, writing things down. There were a lot of layers to cut through to get these stories right.

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Monday, June 18, 2012


Now reading: Chapters 1 to 3 (pages 3 to 79).

Check back on Sunday for more conversation. Until then, tweet thoughts and quotes with the hashtag #wit2012.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What It Takes 2012: How It Works

Hello, and thanks to everyone who is participating in What It Takes 2012, kicking off tomorrow, June 18. This is how it works:

  1. Start the week's reading on the designated Monday.
  2. Tweet quotes, observations and other thoughts with the hashtag '#wit2012'.
  3. Stop by this blog on Sunday to discuss the previous week's reading.

And that's it. Pretty simple. To quote the Bobster, "Gottagoo . . ."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What It Takes 2012

What It Takes has been called a lot of things in its twenty years, chief among them, "by all odds the last truly great campaign book." Jill Abramson wrote that in 2010. Today she's the executive editor of The New York Times.

On Friday, I was sitting in the New York Public Library, and for no particular reason, my thoughts drifted to "Infinite Summer," an excellent project in which a bunch of people spent a summer reading and discussing David Foster Wallace's thousand-page Infinite Jest.

Now, I've long been an evangelist for What It Takes, a book of similar length about the 1988 presidential campaign. It's a six-in-one biography with the best depiction of A) what it's like to run for president, and B) what makes someone want to run for president. It is a colorful tour of America through the mid-twentieth century with the men who would rule it. The Bobster, turkey tetrazzini, White Lightning, Joey Biden and many of cable television's jaded talking head strategists back when they were apple-cheeked youths. Cramer even makes Dick Gephardt seem interesting.

It is a must read, but long and somewhat intimidating. And I think what we enjoy about politics in the Twitter age is the ability to interact, joke and discuss.

So here's an idea: let's read it together.

I've devised a schedule that assigns about 80 pages per week. Starting each Monday, we'll begin a new section, and tweet thoughts and quotes on Twitter using the hashtag #wit2012. Then on Sunday, we'll have a special guest kick off a conversation on that week's reading.

Simple enough, right? See you on Twitter in two weeks, June 18.

  • Week One - Monday June 18 to Sunday June 24
    • Chapters 1 to 3 (pages 3 to 79)
  • Week Two - Monday June 25 to Sunday July 1
    • Chapters 4 to 9 (pages 80 to 158)
  • Week Three - Monday July 2 to Sunday July 8
    • Chapters 10 to 16 (pages 161 to 239)
  • Week Four - Monday July 9 to Sunday July 15
    • Chapters 17 to 20 (pages 240 to 311)
  • Week Five - Monday July 16 to Sunday July 22
    • Chapters 21 to 26 (pages 312 to 393)
  • Week Six - Monday July 23 to Sunday July 29
    • Chapters 27 to 37 (pages 394 to 475)
  • Week Seven - Monday July 30 to Sunday August 5
    • Chapters 38 to 49 (pages 479 to 560)
  • Week Eight - Monday August 6 to Sunday August 12
    • Chapters 50 to 63 (pages 561 to 641)
  • Week Nine - Monday August 13 to Sunday August 19
    • Chapters 64 to 78  (pages 642 to 714)
  • Week Ten - Monday August 20 to Sunday August 26
    • Chapters 79 to 90 (pages 715 to 789)
  • Week Eleven - Monday August 27 to Sunday September 2
    • Chapters 91 to 105 (pages 790 to 871)
  • Week Twelve - Monday September 3 to Sunday September 9
    • Chapters 106 to 120 (pages 872 to 953)
  • Week Thirteen - Monday September 10 to Sunday September 16
    • Chapter 121 to Epilogue (pages 954 to 1047)