WEST WINGING IT by Pat Cunnane


An Unpresidential Memoir
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The inside scoop on how a recent college graduate went from working in a warehouse to becoming a senior writer for the Barack Obama White House.

Following memoirs by his colleagues Alyssa Mastromonoco (Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, 2018) and David Litt (Thanks, Obama, 2017) and ahead of Dan Pfeiffer’s resistance primer Yes We (Still) Can, former senior White House writer Cunnane, now a writer for the TV show Designated Survivor, offers his fitfully funny, often earnest insider’s look at the Obama era. Beginning as a media monitor, the author stumbled through learning the ropes (“what’s a POTUS?”), his first security briefing (Secret Service agent: “congratulations, you’re sitting in the cherry on top of every terrorist’s dream cake”), and his first significant lesson (“fortunately, sometimes at the White House, you fail up”). It’s clear that the author has a little chip on his shoulder, earned from the affectionate teasing he endured, but overall, he offers a warm and observant portrait of what it’s like to work for the White House. Among other stories: his engagement in the Rose Garden and Obama’s sneaking out to Starbucks, where he tasked Cunnane with handling the press: “Let’s test your wrangling skills.” We learn that after Obama made his case at the 2013 G-20 summit, Vladimir Putin told him, “you’ve got some big balls.” In his discussion of “disaster travel” following mass shootings, Cunnane shows us what a real president is made of. “He was more than our consoler in chief,” he writes. “Obama pushed the conversation forward. He reminded us that though our politics are often small, these moments can lay bare the best in us, displaying our better angels and our big hearts.” When he’s truly candid, Cunnane nails it. “All in all, I wrote hundreds of pages in his voice,” he writes. “It was the honor of my life.”

A revealing window into the fascinating aquarium of the “Obama people” and all their “hope and hard-won change.”

Pub Date: April 17th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5011-7829-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2018


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