The Face the Nation moderator eases our fears about the 2016 presidential campaigns by showing other historical horrors related to our highest office.
With a delightful conversational style featuring casual asides and plenty of incisive commentary, Dickerson (On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News’ First Woman Star, 2006) relates historical blunders and boondoggles concerning our “national conversation about what we believe, our national purpose, and how to keep ourselves on track.” The comparisons to our current state can’t be missed, as Dickerson references attempts to repair an American system operated as a republic by elites. He states that America was not created as a democracy. The Founding Fathers looked to check the popular will using the Electoral College, state election of senators, limited suffrage, and the nominating caucus. Across the years, candidates acting as people’s champions have tried to change that, with little success. Dickerson’s many years of experience covering politics informs his intriguing inside looks at how certain stories begin and how they grow. He says a story moves around the campaign trail with a new expletive added every third telling. Throughout the book, the parallels to today’s news are unavoidable. The fight to stop Barry Goldwater in 1964 featured George Romney, and the current #NeverTrump movement involves his son Mitt. What is most fascinating is how one moment can absolutely kill a campaign; witness “Dukakis in the tank,” Howard Dean’s scream, and Ed Muskie’s tears. Sometimes, a strange campaigning style can be a candidate’s best asset—e.g., middle America loved Harry Truman’s off-the cuff attitude and his whistle-stop tours. At the beginning of the book, the author includes a helpful “Timeline of U.S. Presidential Elections,” which lists election years, the winner, and other major candidates.
A politically astute, timely book that will also have great historical value for future campaigns.