BAD BOY by John Brady

BAD BOY

The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Brady (Journalism/Univ. of Missouri), former editor of Boston magazine, provides an entertaining account of the notorious Republican political operative. Lee Atwater led the way in refining the basic tools of negative campaigning--attack ads, dirty tricks, and manipulation of the press--that dominate contemporary politics. Unconcerned with issues or consequences for the country, this devotee of Machiavelli approached political campaigns as wars to be won at any cost. These activities alone offer sufficient material for a juicy biography, but when you throw in continual womanizing, an addiction to exercise and to such musical genres as rock 'n' roll and the blues, and death from a brain tumor, his story takes on a larger-than-life quality. Wisely, Brady presents his material in a detached manner, letting Atwater's actions speak for themselves. The only significant exception to this approach is his discussion of the infamous Willie Horton television commercials, where Brady bends over backwards to minimize Atwater's responsibility. Nevertheless, by the last chapter we have become so inured to Atwater's antics that a final, potentially appalling incident is unsurprising. Confronted with a serious illness, he declares his love for his secretary/personal assistant, installs her as primary keeper and sometime bedmate in his family home (while living with his wife, children, and mother), then finds the emotional strain too intense and completely withdraws from her. Brady points to the tragic death of his brother when Atwater was five, along with his obvious hyperactivity and a penchant for manipulating people and information, to explain Atwater's behavior and personality. Whatever demons were behind his obsessions and skills, however, the result was a political strategist of the highest caliber. If we also criticize Atwater as amoral, we must ask further: What does this say about the candidates who were eager to hire him, and about the political system in which his tactics were successful? A combination of cynical political reality and modern tragedy, this volume is well worth reading. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-201-62733-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1996




MORE BY JOHN BRADY

FictionA CARRA KING by John Brady
by John Brady
FictionTHE GOOD LIFE by John Brady
by John Brady
FictionALL SOULS by John Brady
by John Brady

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionREPUBLIC OF SPIN by David Greenberg
by David Greenberg
NonfictionBUSH by Jean Edward Smith
by Jean Edward Smith