What It Takes: The Way to the White House

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Overview

An American Iliad in the guise of contemporary political reportage, What It Takes penetrates the mystery at the heart of all presidential campaigns: How do presumably ordinary people acquire that mixture of ambition, stamina, and pure shamelessness that makes a true candidate? As he recounts the frenzied course of the 1988 presidential race — and scours the psyches of contenders from George Bush and Robert Dole to Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richard Ben Cramer comes up with ...

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Overview

An American Iliad in the guise of contemporary political reportage, What It Takes penetrates the mystery at the heart of all presidential campaigns: How do presumably ordinary people acquire that mixture of ambition, stamina, and pure shamelessness that makes a true candidate? As he recounts the frenzied course of the 1988 presidential race — and scours the psyches of contenders from George Bush and Robert Dole to Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richard Ben Cramer comes up with the answers, in a book that is vast, exhaustively researched, exhilarating, and sometimes appalling in its revelations.

As he recounts the frenzied course of the 1988 presidential race, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Cramer penetrates the riddle at the heart of American politics: How do presumably normal people acquire that mixture of courage, ambition, and pure shamelessness that makes a true candidate?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Quite possibly the finest book on presidential politics ever written, combining meticulous reporting and compelling, at times soaringly lyrical, prose." — Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The ultimate insider's book on presidential politics...an unparalleled source book on the 1988 candidates."

— San Francisco Chronicle

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cramer's compulsively readable chronicle of the 1988 presidential campaign, a BOMC featured selection and a one-week PW bestseller in cloth, focuses on six contenders--Bush and Dole among the Republicans, and Democrats Hart, Biden, Gephardt and Dukakis--bringing them to life with detailed descriptions and well-crafted interior monologues. June
Library Journal
Defying political logic, Cramer has written a non sequitur that succeeds. In the midst of the 1992 campaign, why write such an exhaustive scorecard of the presidential candidates of 1988? By delving into the lives of these men--George Bush, Robert Dole, Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt, Joseph Biden, and Michael Dukakis--Cramer allows the reader to experience palpably what it feels like to run for president in 1992. The extended biographical sketches are among the finest of the current genre, surpassing his choppier but still satisfying transitional sections on the campaign itself. Dole's recovery from having his arm nearly blown off in World War II is a triumph as powerfully retold as Ron Kovic's story in Born on the Fourth of July (McGraw, 1976). This extended metaphor of surviving and prospering on the mean streets of American politics is recommended for public libraries and emphatically so for large collections. BOMC featured selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/92, and ``On the Campaign Book Trail,'' LJ 3/15/92, p. 110-112.-- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
Irreverent, highly knowledgeable look at the 1988 presidential primaries by Pulitzer-winning journalist Cramer. The author's candidates are tough and clever, driven to a life so complicated by power that ordinary behavior is impossible—as when George Bush, ever eager to please (his intelligence "a silken windsock...so responsive to the currents"), tries to throw a baseball while wearing a bulletproof vest even as his son, bumped from the presidential box by an aide, throws a tantrum. Cramer's images are indelible: Shy, thoughtful Gary Hart, who soon will be destroyed by the press, noticing things that others do not ("The Soviet Union is rotting from within," he's quoted as saying; "...the Cold War rules do not have to apply"). Joe Biden, stutterer, the toughest kid in school somehow now a US senator, climbing into an abandoned DuPont mansion, claiming it for his own, and pouring money into it until friends think he is mad. Down-home Michael Dukakis chasing his cousin around the house with a fish- head, thinking that running the nation can be like running Massachusetts, and never grasping that the limos and other perks of power are essential evidence of major-league behavior. Or the usually well-balanced Richard Gephardt exploding at an overbearing reporter: "Fuck him to death!" But the great achievement of this powerful piece of Americana is its majestic sweep and range, brought into focus by Cramer's ability to fuse telling details into a fierce crescendo of a barbaric marketing process that, he contends, hucksters like Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes use to hoodwink the press (for which the author has little respect: "David Frost, the celebrated English brown-nose").Cramer penetrates media smoke screens as only a media-man can, marching into the psyches of his candidates as boldly as Albert Goldman investigating pop heroes. Exhaustively researched and written in a hot, jarring, unsentimental prose: the perfect antidote to election-year mythologizing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679746492
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage Books ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1072
  • Sales rank: 182,837
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Ben Cramer
Richard Ben Cramer
With personal profiles on some of history's greatest legends like his breakout book Joe DiMaggio: A Hero's Life, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Richard Ben Cramer is an expert on what makes men like DiMaggio as fascinating out of the spotlight as they are while under its glare.

Biography

Richard Ben Cramer is the author of the bestselling What It Takes: The Way to the White House, which was acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written on American politics. His journalism has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Time, and Newsweek. His dispatches from the Middle East for The Philadelphia Inquirer won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1979. With his wife and daughter, he lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Author biography courtsesy of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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    1. Hometown:
      Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 20, 1950

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2003

    This book is bangin'!!

    Wow, I never knew >1000 pages could go by so quickly! It's written with clarity and humor... absolutely great. If anyone hasn't developed a deeper respect for all of 88's candidates (Especially Bush and Dole... their WWII stories were INTENSE..) after reading this, then, uh, you should read it again... i dunno. hehe. An absolute classic-I enthusiastically recommend it to political junkies of both the left and right.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    Recommended - is you really like politics

    This book certainly gave a look at the candidates that I had not seen before. It changed my opinion of some of them, not for the better, and left me wondering why I had not been aware of what he was describing for others. Having followed the primaries and general election that year (as always) I wonder why my perception of the candidates was so different from what the author described. As an independent I have a pretty objective view which is how I make my decision for voting.

    The chronological order was a big distraction in my opinion. Changing from candidate to candidate was not a problem, but hopping back and forth in years for the same candidate was very distracting. I had to go back to see what the time-frame was for the earlier section and sometimes re-read parts to make sense of it. He could have still changed from candidate to candidate but have kept the time frame in chronological order for each of them. It would have been more readable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 8, 2009

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    Posted February 18, 2013

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    Posted December 23, 2011

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    Posted November 5, 2009

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