From The Gospel According To The Fix, by Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza's new book, The Gospel According To The Fix. It has a chapter on What It Takes in which Cillizza interviews the author to get at what, how and why Cramer did what he did, introducing a new verb: "I wanted to Ben Cramer Ben Cramer."
Cillizza describes how Cramer came to write the book, and the common thread he found among these six men.
The thread? Their mothers. "In every household the dad was some way recessive," he said. "The moms took every bit of ambition and their focus and their will and pumped it into this kid until that little kid was running by the time he left that house."You've got to buy the book for more of the insights that Cillizza ferrets out, including Cramer's top notch reporting tips. It's great fun, with profiles, forecasting and political trivia. Cillizza can drop in a quote from the 1984 Almanac of American Politics. That's all the reason you need. Here's hoping he does another one in four years.
That singular focus was not just from the candidates' mothers though. Ben Cramer said he was struck by how "their whole world bent around them. . . they were the heavy lumps of iron." That phenomenon also produced another one: the presidential candidates almost always had, in Ben Cramer's words, "a crazy brother." Why? Because the golden child "sucks up every little bit of sunshine," leaving nothing for the siblings."
|Gary and Oletha Hartpence, 1958|
And that word capsulizes the experience that all of these men have in running for the presidency. Think about where each them were in 1987: Gephardt, Bush, Biden, Dole, Hart and Dukakis were all in top form. They had had their trials but by that year, they were respectable and in command. Compare that with the 2012 cycle that saw several undistinguished or washed up candidates hold center stage.
|Gephardt and Shrum's TelePrompTer from California|
This was the problem with the book's critical reception in 1988, as Cillizza's book gets at: the candidates aren't supposed to be the heroes. Most of them end up losers! And besides, they are transitory. Meanwhile the institutional players -- the press and the operatives -- remain the same. And so when What It Takes came out, making the candidates look big and the rest look crushingly petty, of course Washington hated it.
And we're left with the question Hart asks a friend of his mama's, "why would anybody want to run for President of the United States?"
The Duke Tells a Joke
this one about Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard seceding from Massachusetts and a nuclear-happy Republican governor from New Hampshire.
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