Buck Up, Suck Up... And Come Back When You Foul Up: Twelve Winning Secrets from the War Room


The political strategists who directed the Clinton campaign's War Room reveal the lessons and secrets from their hard-fought battles — and how to use these highly effective strategies for success in business and everyday life.
James Carville and Paul Begala have waged political war all across America and on three continents. They've won some of the most spectacular political victories of the twentieth century and lost a few campaigns too. Along the way, they've learned a few ...

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Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room

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The political strategists who directed the Clinton campaign's War Room reveal the lessons and secrets from their hard-fought battles — and how to use these highly effective strategies for success in business and everyday life.
James Carville and Paul Begala have waged political war all across America and on three continents. They've won some of the most spectacular political victories of the twentieth century and lost a few campaigns too. Along the way, they've learned a few lessons. Some sound simple, like "Never Quit," some comic, like "Kiss Ass," and some are more complicated and nuanced, like "Strategy Ain't Tactics." But each lesson contains tried-and-true wisdom, illustrated with colorful stories from long political experience:
• Find out how Carville's mother used a bass boat to "frame the debate" in
selling encyclopedias.
• Learn the War Room tricks for sharpening your message and delivering the perfect sound bite.
• Discover what success secret Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tom DeLay share.
• And much more.
Whether you are a senior executive or a secretary, a political junkie or the president of the United States, the rules to live by can be found in Buck Up, Suck Up...and Come Back When You Foul Up.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
USA Today Compelling, instructive and funny.

Houston Chronicle Disarmingly entertaining...a breezy, colloquial discussion on what it takes to get ahead. These two very colorful characters are decidedly Democratic ...but their advice is useful no matter what your political inclination may be.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743234481
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/2/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,016,118
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James Carville is the best-known and most-loved political consultant in American history. He is also a speaker, talk-show host, actor, and author with six New York Times bestsellers to his credit. Part of a large Southern family, he grew up without a television and loved to listen to the stories his mama told. Mr. Carville lives with his wife, Mary Matalin, and their two daughters in New Orleans.

Paul Begala was a chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, which carried thirty-three states and made Bill Clinton the first Democrat to win the White House in sixteen years. He served as counselor to the president in the Clinton White House, where he coordinated policy, politics, and communications. He is the author of four books, including Is Our Children Learning?: The Case Against George W. Bush; It's Still the Economy, Stupid; and Buck Up, Suck Up...and Come Back When You Foul Up (with James Carville). Begala is a CNN political commentator and a research professor of public policy at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. Paul earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas, where he was student body president. He and his wife live quietly in Virginia with their four boys and a German shepherd. (Okay, so they don't live too quietly.)

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Read an Excerpt


This book won't change your life.

If you buy this book and read it, you will not make $1 million — at least not because you bought this book. This ain't the New Testament or the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the Talmud or the Koran. Buying it won't cause the Today show to do a one-hour special on you, and the opposite sex (or the same sex if that's what floats your boat) will not suddenly find you irresistible.

Here's what you'll get: good, sound advice on how to win. You'll get techniques and tactics that are battle-tested and proven in the white-hot crucible of politics.

In writing this book, we've learned a lot. As intuitive, trust-your-gut political strategists, we're a far cry from the political philosophers or political scientists who have dissected political strategy in scholarly texts. Nor are we corporate turnaround artists, self-help gurus, motivational speakers, retired CEOs or former coaches. All of them have written books that offer unique insights into the game of life as played on their turf.

But our turf is different. American politics at the dawn of the twenty-first century is a brutal, bloody, winner-take-all game. As it should be. The stakes in political combat are not multibillion-dollar mergers or championship rings. Those things are nice, and we're sure they're important to the folks who have a stake in them. But America and the world will not long remember or care whether Ford or GM had the bestselling family minivan, much less whether the Lakers can "three-peat" or Tiger Woods shanks a drive.

There are no higher stakes than determining who runs the only superpower on God's earth. Politics matters. It determines in large measure whether the Dow Jones Industrial Average goes up or down. It determines whether unemployment goes up or down. Whether the welfare rate and the crime rate and the prime rate go up or down — whether America itself goes up or down. Politics, as John F. Kennedy Jr. used to say, is the only game for grown-ups — and too important to be left to the politicians.

And the best thing about American politics is that, on Election Day, you matter more than all the special-interest groups and all the pundits and all the corporations. Because with your vote you decide the fate and future of the greatest nation in human history. That's why, while we never take ourselves seriously, we always took our work in political campaigns very seriously. Candidates have entrusted us with their life's dream, with their fondest hopes, their deepest ambitions, their darkest secrets.

The two of us combined represent nearly a half-century of involvement in politics. From local judicial races to the presidency, we've won some, we've lost some and we've blown some. And along the way we've learned a lot. A Carville-Begala campagin had certain attributes, some of them accidental, but most of them intentional, that reflected our approach to our craft.

We believe our approach is different from most of what you'd find in corporate life for one very simple reason: in business a 49 percent market share means you're rich. In campaigns it means you're through. In our business there is only absolute victory and abject defeat — and both your victories and your defeats are played out on the front page of newspapers. That kind of zero-sum game, with those kinds of stakes, sharpens your approach.

Will political lessons translate to your corporate culture, your life, your work, your country? You'll have to judge for yourself. But we think so, and here's why: Having run campaigns on three continents and in too many states to mention, we recognize how very different each unique set of circumstances is. So we've tried to focus these rules on the eternal verities, on the stuff that works anywhere.

And that itself is a lesson: Focus on the big picture. When James went to Israel to help get Ehud Barak elected prime minister, he joked that after months of research he'd concluded that the election was going to be decided by one factor: the all-important Jewish vote. But behind that joke was a larger truth: It really didn't matter so much whether the Sabbath was on a Saturday or a Sunday; the same principles apply. Speed, a culture of aggressive action, openness, empowering people, rapid response — all work across all borders.

And if the audience you're trying to reach is smaller than the one hundred million voters we spend our time trying to reach, we believe these lessons are even more important because your target audience is even more sophisticated, even more interested, even more up-to-the-minute. You should take note of the differences between our world and yours, but do not become enmeshed in them. The principles apply. The precise method of how you apply them is just one more test of your talent and creativity and flexibility.

The bottom line is that if you're faster, smarter and more aggressive than the other guy (or gal), you're going to win more often than not. The purpose of this book is to make you faster, smarter and more aggressive.

We aren't attempting to rewrite Machiavelli or Sun-tzu; no one will be studying this book five hundred years from now. But we do hope that we can give you practical, applicable strategies that will help you close a deal, land an account, get a raise, earn a promotion, win an election. And, most of all, beat your competition.

Copyright © 2002 by James Carville and Paul Begala

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