Monday, July 30, 2012

DISCUSSION: Chapters Twenty Six to Thirty Six


Hart under siege, May 1987
Things are not always what they seem in presidential politics, and the imperceptible was the theme in this week's reading, among the most pivotal portions of the book. The big unfolding story is the unmaking of Gary Hart -- the indiscretion, the stakeout and the hounding. But Cramer also pulls the curtain back on what was not seen: what it felt like behind the gates at Troublesome Gulch with Lee and Andrea Hart. What it felt like in Gary's head as he drove the jeep through the pack of reporters in New Hampshire. The journalists' pursuit of Hart's personal life is to reveal the human side, but then there's the human side of getting the human side to consider. . . .

There are the stories no one would suspect. Everybody knew Gary Hart was getting laid, just like everybody knew Kitty Dukakis was having an affair with a Massachusetts State Trooper. That's why she was never around the governor. Only she wasn't. Kitty was battling a near-lifelong pill addiction when the 1988 campaign was getting underway. Michael (soon to be the "Mike" of campaign commercials) wasn't sure she could handle the public scrutiny, but she insisted. She went to Minnesota to get clean, and in her absence a rumor took hold about her security detail indiscretion. Everybody knew, of course, except those who knew.

George Bush embarked on the noble adventure: public service, just like his father Prescott did. Only the Yankee son refused to play to type. Running in Dixie, first he is forced to put a muzzle on his dad, a member of the Republican Eastern Establishment worked up over Goldwater. It seemed every Republican was worked up in 1964: the Goldwater conservatives about the Country Club set, and the Country Club set worked up about the Goldwater conservatives. Bush tried to keep the peace in the party, unexpectedly adding some West Texas sensibilities to his Eastern image. He did a decent job, ticking off some along the way, like when he was chided for not knowing "the difference between a common man and a common common man." But in his 1964 Senate loss, he received more votes than any Republican had in Texas state history. Oh, and the teenaged George W. Bush cries at his father's loss.

Gary Hart captured all the drama of this section. The story of his Bimini jaunt with a young woman, and a private Saturday night party that just happened to have Miami Herald reporters outside, there on a tip. Hart filled with rage, indignation. He was ready to quit almost from the outset -- the process wasn't dignified.

Hart staffers Joe Trippi and Kevin Sweeney
But no one runs for president by himself, and there were a lot of people hurt. Guys who had just uprooted their lives and moved to Colorado or Iowa or New Hampshire were wondering if they had done it all for naught. Field staffer Judy Harrington sunk to the floor in tears. Hart's family members were turned into prisoners in their own home, reporters climbing the gate just to get someone to come out and yell at them again. Lee Hart ignored the advice of others (her girlfriend's old joke about Gary, "We should have cut your THING off fifteen years ago!") and went to her husband. They campaigned in New Hampshire but then word came: the Washington Post had the goods on him. Hart diverted them long enough to escape to Colorado, where he'd get out of the race. Joe Trippi went out to the Post reporter to communicate that Hart was done, and their decision to publish should consider that.

It was when answering the question, "Have you ever committed adultery?" became a qualification for the presidency.

Word of the Week

George Bush, 1964 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate
The Lime-Green Pants Crowd - proper noun

a privileged member of the Republican Party from old money and/or Eastern elite institutions (i.e. Yale or the Council on Foreign Relations). See also: Country Club Republican

Share more quotes and scenes in the comments.


  1. I have a question. Why are there so few comments or tweets? I'm just a little old lady in Mississippi who loves politics. I read this book when it was first published and thought it was the best campaign book ever, I've been vindicated in my opinion by many professionals in the field. I was really looking forward to reading the book again and then reading the comments and discussion from people that I only know from reading their names. So what happened?

    1. Hi Casey - I guess it's just midsummer and people get busy. I know personally, I'm writing and researching a book, preparing for a lecture next month and applying for grants. So it's been a little hectic. But as a true Catholic, I can be guilted into pretty much anything and so I will get back on the horse. But you've got to do me a favor, OK? You've got to tweet and comment, too. Thanks for keeping me on the ball.

  2. I have and will continue but it's a little intimidating.

  3. I have and will continue but it's a little intimidating.

  4. I have and will continue but it's a little intimidating.

  5. I've long been delighted and very proud that Richard Ben Cramer -- my next door neighbor & best friend in suburban Rochester, NY when I was 7-9 years old, has authored one of the best books ever written about a U.S. presidential campaign.

    Steven Raikin
    Washington, D.C.