PLAYING TO WIN: An Insider's Guide to Watching and Winning by Jeff Greenfield

PLAYING TO WIN: An Insider's Guide to Watching and Winning

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KIRKUS REVIEW

How to think like a politician-to understand what the politicians are thinking. And feeling (""You must understand the all-comsuming passion...""). Greenfield is a veteran of the big-time--in New York (John Lindsay) and L.A. (Tom Bradley) and on the national scene--and, with a breezy candor, he roughs in the rules and gets down to the play-by-play. Some of the old rules, he points out, are obsolete (""A divorce cannot win high political office"": like Ronald Reagan?); some are immutable (""There is no such thing as a fair-minded political campaign""); and some that are now questioned are, he contends, still valid: ""Issues are almost always decisive in political campaigns."" What Greenfield means by issues is, however, very general--what he later calls a ""megacept,"" or central theme. For Jimmy Carter, it was trust (""He came from Plains, a town whose very name resonates with a sense of trust""); ""In 1980, however, competence, not trust, is the key megacept."" And then Greenfield, in one of his best sections, pinpoints the slogans that worked for Lindsay, James Buckley, Wallace, Bradley, and Hugh Carey. Another highpoint is ""How To Give a Speech""--with a hilarious model (devised for his prototypical candidate, ""Smithers"") that's interlined, sentence by sentence, with parenthetical asides. ""Heraclitus once said, 'He who is sick is not well--nor is his nation.' (Heraclitus almost certainly said nothing of the sort, but no one is going to spend time looking it up and you have demonstrated some learning.)"" Yes, lots of this consists of tricks, intimidation, one-upmanship, and various other forms of unsporting behavior. And Greenfield isn't altogether consistent--TV isn't all-important, he says, and then he goes on to identify as the politican's prime resource, today, not the moneybags but the entertainer and to call the TV ad ""a dominant part of any political campaign."" Forget the theory, then, and enjoy the performance.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1980
Publisher: Simon & Schuster