A semigonzo, often funny, occasionally revealing look at the daily business of conducting a presidential campaign.
It’s not quite Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 or The Boys on the Bus, but Rolling Stone contributing editor Hastings owes something more than just inspiration to Hunter Thompson and Timothy Crouse. Or perhaps it’s in the nature of the beast: Every campaign needs a boozing, ill-kempt, confrontational goat, and Hastings is just right for the part. On one instance where candidate Barack Obama is about to wade into a crowd of reporters for a friendly off-the-record beer, for instance, Hastings recalls a Washington Post writer sidling up to him, eyeballing his shorts and T-shirt and saying, “You might want to, you know, put on something nicer.” Well-dressed or not, Hastings knows how to ask hard questions, for which reason he was often shunted from top-tier accommodations to barely on the bus, much less the campaign plane—not at the president’s behest, mind you, but at the hands of ticked-off staffers, from the high-ranking (David Plouffe et al.) to the barely out of high school. Hastings dishes dirt, little of it deeply scandalous; his title, it seems, comes from the fact that every perceived swing in mood, every gaffe, every poor moment at the microphone set those staffers on edge. And not just the Dems: Hastings matches the endless moments of terror with moments of elation when Mitt Romney stuck silver foot in mouth. One payoff: Though Hastings did in fact agree to go off the record at points, that doesn’t keep him from reporting on his fellow reporters.
An entertainment, though not much more to ordinary readers. Aspiring politicos and their staffers, though, will want this for its astute look at the tricks of the trade.