978-0-8129-2963-8 / 0812929632

Show Time:: The American Political Circus and the Race for the White House

by Simon, Roger




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About the book:

Modern political campaigns--and seemingly politics in general--have devolved into a sort of circus, with many sideshow acts vying for the position of ringleader. No election exemplifies this as clearly as the race for the "big top": the White House. Syndicated columnist Roger Simon takes readers behind the scenes of what is surely the greatest political show on earth, exploring the 1996 presidential campaign between the incumbent, Bill Clinton, and the Republican candidate Bob Dole, and touching on other serious primary contenders such as Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, and Steve Forbes. In the vein of such campaign classics as Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and the more recent Trail Fever by Michael Lewis, Show Time reveals the true nature of those who help--or fail to help--their guy rule the polls. From White House spokesman Mike McCurry to talk-show host Larry King to political rule-breaker Ross Perot, Simon reintroduces readers to already familiar politicos, providing often humorous, sometimes tragicomic glimpses of the charismatic (and not-so-charismatic) people who helped make a potentially forgettable political match-up a fascinating, hilarious study of the production that American presidential campaigns have become.

After the cursory but delightful examination of the primary elections, Simon delves into the race between the chosen ones: Clinton and Dole. He paints vivid pictures of these very different men, all the while showing how their personalities helped--or inhibited--their chances of success. Simon claims that "the candidate who refuses to entertain is doomed to defeat." In this case, this candidate was Dole. Simon maintains that Dole's campaign suffered greatly for its lack of focus, an assertion supported by many of the candidate's own comments: when asked by a reporter what he considers the most important thing voters should know about him, Dole replied, "Beats me." In turn, Clinton's flexible, eager-to-please-and-entertain staffers helped propel this immensely likeable candidate back to his temporary home on Pennsylvania Avenue for a final term, and Simon documents their almost religious fervor and uproariously funny foibles with an equally insightful eye. Although many of us may remember the 1996 presidential election with disinterest or apathy, Show Time reminds us why living in a democracy is never boring.

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