From Matt Bai, author and New York Times Magazine correspondent
|Hart's "Hell no."|
I can vividly remember sitting alone with Bill Bradley after his withdrawal in 2000, as he prepared to leave his campaign office for the last time and as the Secret Service detail packed up the car for the last escorted ride home. Bradley seemed almost relieved to me as we talked that day, the burden of public scrutiny and brutal itineraries lifted at last, and I think that probably said a lot about the way he ran for president and why he didn't succeed in beating Al Gore.
|The Joy of Pepsi|
Of the 1988 crowd, Bob Dole is probably the most universally admired (even though he lost the general election in 1996), probably because he handled both defeats with grace and humor and never seemed to personalize it. By remaining constructive and engaged after losing for a second time, Jesse Jackson probably did a lot to dispel the 1960s stereotypes about reactionary black men in America, and in this way, I would credit him with making possible Barack Obama's election 20 years later.
Hart spent most of the next two decades in his Colorado cabin, waiting for someone to bestow redemption; he was entitled to it, but his refusal to seek some kind of public rehabilitation also said something about his considerable pride and obstinance. (That Hart never reentered public office was a deep loss for the country, and the legacy of that scandal is the subject of my next book.)
|The Majority Leader, 1991.|
What this tells you, perhaps, is that losing politicians often feel they're owed something for their years of service. And who knows, maybe they are.
|It's actually his fault.|
In the last paragraph of a book with many, many paragraphs, Bush says he will do whatever it takes to win reelection. "People wondered . . . why would he say a thing like that?" That's what the previous one thousand forty-six pages were meant to explain.
Like how Dick was getting pummeled and his campaign team had given up on him, but he threw it all into the Michigan primary anyway. You get so far into these things, it becomes impossible to stop.
|Michael and Estrich|
|Bar and George|
That was who Bush was, as Roger Ailes sussed out in an interview about his near-deadly bombing run in World War II. There were flames on the wing and smoke in his cockpit, but Bush stayed the course. "Why didn't you bail out?" Ailes asked.
Bush didn't pause, didn't think, didn't blink. "I hadn't completed my mission," he said.People once wondered about George Bush. Thanks to Cramer, we don't have to wonder anymore.
The First Person
|The author is present.|
Cramer begins the book telling us how the people who became president seemed like no one he ever knew. And by the end, he knows. He looks into Bush's eyes on the bus, as the Beach Boys' Mike Love is telling him about a double-girl rubdown, and Cramer can see that nobody's home. Bush was on autopilot, doing what it took to get through to the end. By election day, friend-to-all Poppy is so thoroughly drained that he's not even Poppy anymore. He's not inviting friends back to jaw; he's going home.
Presidents: they're not like us.
|Biden starts taking his time|
Dick's already thinking about what's next -- not governor or senator but president. Majority Leader simply falls into his lap, so, he sees something to do, something to get him back to where he needs to be to do it again. Bob Dole, well, he always thought about the future. He gets himself set for the vice presidency (just in case) and keeps moving forward. Joe Biden's got his house, and he's not thinking about '92 or any other time soon. He hadn't lost his motor, it was just running at a slower speed.
And Michael. He's too busy beating up on himself for blowing it. The chapter in which he says he had the campaign in his pocket is the shortest of the book. The epilogue, its longest section, explains all the ways Michael did not have it, nor would he find it again once he got home. The Massachusetts Miracle wasn't so miraculous once the paperwork was sorted. Back on Perry Street, Kitty had lost herself to the campaign and, sadly, drink.
Because the end exudes the folly in it all. Yes, there is the great power that Bush possesses. It's the getting there that matters, the powerlessness over so much in it that reminds us what they had, what they gave and what it took.
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