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What it Takes


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About the Author

Richard Ben Cramer's magazine articles have appeared in Rolling Stone and Esquire, and have been anthologized in Best American Essays. He is a recipient of the Puliter Prize for his work for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He died in 2013.


``Who are these guys? What are they like?'' Cramer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Esquire contributing editor, answers these questions at length in this compulsively readable look at six presidential contenders in 1988: two Republicans (Dole, Bush) and four Democrats (Hart, Biden, Gephardt, Dukakis). He follows each candidate as he makes his way through the primaries, fine-tuning his stand on issues, struggling to retain his individuality while being hounded by rapacious journalists, worked over by his handlers and browbeaten by his image wizards. Cramer's use of interior monologue is brilliant, especially his portrait of Dukakis as a humorless know-it-all and Bush as a compulsive nice guy. Based on more than a thousand interviews and remarkable cooperation from the candidates, the narrative is rich in its accounts of each candidate's family background, marriage, political career and personal ordeals. Delicious quotes and anecdotes abound, such as Bush's ``I deny that I have ever given my opinion to anybody about anything.'' First serial to Esquire; BOMC featured selection. (July)

"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

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.

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