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The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Anglais) Relié – 3 octobre 2006


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the way to lose

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The collection of winners on that Little Rock stage was the most striking image from the Clinton Library opening. But also in attendance, sitting in the crowd, was a pair of distinguished losers.

Al Gore and John Kerry had never been close, despite the many years they served together in Washington. Now they shared a special bond. Both had been beaten by a man they believed to be less articulate, less capable, less experienced, less virtuous, less worthy, and less intelligent than they. Both had been preparing for the presidency since they were young men, spurred not just by ambition, but by colleagues, friends, and mentors who for a generation had been anticipating their eventual candidacies. Gore and Kerry long had stood out as quintessential strivers, even among fellow senators. Now they looked up through the rain at a man whom almost no one had regarded as presidential material until a couple of years before he got the job. Neither Gore nor Kerry seemed to grasp the reasons for what both considered a cruel hoax of history.

Gore had had four years to contemplate his loss, but for Kerry, the sting of defeat was still fresh that morning. An instinctually competitive man, he had served notice immediately after Election Day that he was eager to try again for the presidency in 2008. To his face, Kerry got handshakes, praise for a race well run, and condolences that the better man had not won. Behind his back, in Little Rock hotel bars filled with visiting Democrats, the notion of Kerry running again for president was greeted with derision and mockery, even by people who two weeks earlier had been on his payroll.

If this were a book about all the reasons John Kerry lost the 2004 election, it would be too heavy to hold. John Kerry was beaten by John Kerry, who never overcame the limitations of his diffident personality. He was beaten by George W. Bush, who was by far the savvier politician. Deep thinkers might say Kerry was beaten by history, since Democrats for nearly forty years had been at a stark disadvantage when national security was the dominant issue in voters’ minds. Here is another nominee for who beat John Forbes Kerry: Matthew Drudge.

If you are reading this book, you probably know who Matt Drudge is. It is a guarantee that most of the reporters, editors, producers, and talk show bookers who serve up the daily national buffet of news recently have checked out his eponymous website, and that www.drudgereport.com is bookmarked on their computers. That is one reason Drudge is the single most influential purveyor of information about American politics.

Drudge, with his droll Dickensian name, was not the only media or politi- cal agent whose actions led to John Kerry’s defeat. But his role placed him at the center of the game—a New Media World Order in which Drudge was the most potent player in the process and a personification of the dynamics that did Kerry in. Drudge and his ilk made Kerry toxic—and unelectable.

Toxicity is the new defining trait of modern American politics. The toxins themselves are not new. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton initially clashed like gentlemen (albeit venomously) over the limits of federal power and the future of the economy, but when news of Hamilton’s saucy mistress Maria Reynolds surfaced, thanks to nonpartisan busybody James Callender, Jefferson was content to let the accusatory pamphlets fly.

Anger, prurience, invective, conspiracy theory—all are native flowers on the American landscape. What is new is the greenhouse in which these blossoms are cultivated and sold. This greenhouse was built on two beams. The first was the disintegration of editorial filters in the Old Media, which in an earlier age prevented the most salacious tales and bitter accusations (though certainly not all) from entering the public arena. The New Media—talk radio, cable television, Internet websites—for the most part never had these editorial filters. Many of its leading voices, Drudge among them, are openly contemptuous of the very idea. The Old Media, faced with filter-free competition, responded by loosening or discarding its own.

This in turn helped promote, and was promoted by, the second beam, the erosion of basic habits of decorum and self-restraint, in politics and media alike. In an earlier generation, these habits meant that people more often refrained from fully expressing how much they loathed one another. In the current generation, self-restraint is commonly regarded as a weakness and rarely is rewarded economically or politically. The result is that the extreme and eccentric voices who always populated the margins of politics now reside, with money and fame as the rewards, at the center. Michael Moore, please say hello to Ann Coulter. The collapse of filters and the collapse of civility together have changed the purpose of politics. The goal now is not simply to win, but to persuade voters (and donors and viewers and readers) that an opponent lacks the character and credibility even to deserve a place in the contest. That is Freak Show politics.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were sitting on the stage in Little Rock because they learned to navigate the Freak Show—and even to use it to their advantage. Al Gore and John Kerry were sitting in the audience because they did not. Were it not for the Freak Show, Kerry’s title today likely would be President of the United States. Instead Kerry’s title is Case Study.

•••

Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid began in earnest, though unofficially, days after the 2002 midterm congressional elections. These had been a disaster for Democrats. Bush, invoking his party’s credentials on national security, and revving up a turnout machine run from the White House by Karl Rove, led the Republicans to House and Senate gains. But the Massachusetts sena- tor believed Bush might yet be vulnerable in his own reelection. What was needed was a way to make plain to voters what seemed painfully obvious to Kerry: Bush was an incompetent president. Kerry hired a campaign manager, veteran Capitol Hill operative Jim Jordan, who set out with consultant Bob Shrum and a wide circle of Kerry advisers to take inventory of the Democrat’s strengths and vulnerabilities. They might have been wise to start with his hair.

By conventional measures, the thick mane atop Kerry’s lean, craggy face should have registered in the strengths column. His hair had grayed but not receded by a single follicle over his six decades. Kerry was a bit vain about his locks, and he gave them careful attention. As it happened, folks at the Republican National Committee had been paying attention, too. Sometime earlier, a tasty nugget of news raced around RNC headquarters. Would you believe that Kerry gets his hair cut at the Washington salon of Cristophe? Yes, exactly, that Cristophe—the same guy who did Hillary Clinton’s hair. Cristophe was also the stylist who was trimming Bill Clinton that time in 1993 when Air Force One sat on the tarmac in Los Angeles for two hours while the whole world cooled its heels (never mind that reports about delayed air traffic turned out to be false).

No one at the RNC was surprised by the Cristophe news. Barbara Comstock, the party’s savvy research director, had been in television green rooms with Kerry and witnessed him fussing over himself before going on air, utterly oblivious to anyone or anything around him. Jim Dyke, the party’s communications director, sensed the Cristophe information would come in handy, and tucked it away for the right occasion.

On Sunday, December 2, Kerry publicly announced his candidacy to Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press. Ordinarily, this was the kind of news that would echo positively through the media for the rest of the week. With a well-timed placement, however, Dyke and his colleague Tim Griffin made sure that something else was waiting for Kerry, first thing Monday morning.

“**Exclusive**” promised the Drudge Report. “Cash and Coif!” read his headline, using the alliteration Drudge favors. “Democrat all-star John Kerry of Massachusetts is positioning himself as a populist politician while he takes the first step for a White House run. . . . But the self-described ‘Man of the People’ pays $150 to get his hair styled and shampooed—the cost of feeding a family of three for two weeks!”

Like many Drudge Report exclusives, this one implied rigorous reporting, including direct quotations from well-positioned sources to whom the author supposedly talked on a not-for-attribution basis. In this case, it was a “stylist source,” who allegedly told him: “When it comes to his hair, Mr. Kerry is very, very particular. The coloring and the highlighting, the layering. But the results are fabulous.” Drudge also claimed he had spoken to a “green room insider” at Fox News’s Washington bureau: “It’s always a fight to get mirror time. He obsessively primps and poses before he goes on the air.” Drudge items often quote from his roster of breathless White House insiders, top media “suits,” or highly placed campaign aides, all furtively but authoritatively telling Matt Drudge the way it is. Does Drudge really get on the phone and converse with such people? Some in the Old Media speculate that he takes his tips from a single source by phone or e-mail, then creates hyperventilated quotes based on (entirely plausible) speculation about what someone somewhere probably is saying. The assumption that Drudge is casually embroidering his stories—what would be career-ending fraud for an Old Media journalist or author—has not caused reporters to remove Drudge from their daily read...

Présentation de l'éditeur

In The Way to Win, two of the country’s most accomplished political reporters explain what separates the victors from the victims in the unforgiving environment of modern presidential campaigns.

Mark Halperin, political director of ABC News, and John F. Harris, the national politics editor of The Washington Post, tell the story of how two families–the Bushes and the Clintons–have held the White House for nearly a generation and examine Hillary Clinton’s prospects for extending this record in 2008. Based on years of research, including private campaign memos and White House communications, The Way to Win reveals the surprising details of how the Bushes and Clintons have closely studied each the other’s successes and failures and used these lessons to shape their own strategies for winning elections and wielding power.

In the case of George W. Bush, the strategic genius is Karl C. Rove, arguably the most influential White House aide in history. For the first time, Halperin and Harris cut through the myths and controversies surrounding Rove to illuminate in brilliant, behind-the-scenes detail what he actually does–his Trade Secrets for winning elections.

In the case of the Clintons, the chief strategist is Bill Clinton himself. Drawing on their fifteen years reporting on and interviewing him, Halperin and Harris deconstruct and decipher the Clinton style, identifying the methods that all candidates can use in their pursuit of the White House.

The Way to Win takes a lively and irreverent approach, but Halperin and Harris also show the disturbing ways that American politics has become a Freak Show–their name for a political culture that provides incentives for candidates, activists, interest groups, and the news media to emphasize ideological extremism and personal attack. For the first time, Halperin and Harris describe how Freak Show campaigns orchestrated by the likes of Internet pioneer Matt Drudge forced Al Gore and John Kerry to lose control of their public images (with considerable help from the candidates’ own ineptitude) and lose the White House.

On the brink of what will be one of the most intense, most exciting presidential elections in American history, The Way to Win is the book that armchair political junkies have been waiting for. Filled with peerless analysis and eye-opening revelations from the trenches, it is a must read for everyone who follows American politics.

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Amazon.com: 3,3 sur 5 étoiles 33 commentaires
Anthony M. Zipple
4,0 sur 5 étoilesWell Worth Reading
29 octobre 2006 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
5 personnes ont trouvé cela utile.
Richard of Connecticut
4,0 sur 5 étoilesBuy this Book Today - Don't Wait
7 novembre 2006 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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2 personnes ont trouvé cela utile.
J. Groom
3,0 sur 5 étoilesDoes not even mention Obama
22 juillet 2008 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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7 personnes ont trouvé cela utile.
Andy Orrock
4,0 sur 5 étoilesGood for political junkies; some of their 2008 predictions already rendered irrelevant
10 juillet 2007 - Publié sur Amazon.com