Political spin doctor lifts the curtain on the global pollster/consultant business.
A political scientist and activist denied tenure at Yale, Greenberg (The Two Americas: Our Current Political Deadlock and How to Break It, 2004, etc.) entered the fray of Washington politics in the 1980s and gained international recognition as part of Bill Clinton’s inner circle. Convinced that the Democrats needed to redesign their party around the needs of a forgotten middle class, he helped propel the Arkansas governor into the White House in 1992. At that moment, Greenberg became the strategist of choice for modernizing politicians around the world. This book recounts his associations with five big names in recent political history. Following two opening chapters on Clinton, Greenberg remembers his life in the political trenches with Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Ehud Barak and Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. He writes about his subjects with honesty rather than sycophancy, though Mandela is treated with considerable awe. In 1993, Greenberg assisted the African National Congress during South Africa’s first democratic elections. Discerning that voters found large political gatherings impersonal, his team connected Mandela to supporters through more intimate forums. The author was then invited to help Tony Blair modernize the British Labour Party in 1995. Blair earned his people’s trust, but struggled to retain it during the Iraq War. Barak hired Greenberg in 1997 to help him defeat Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and become prime minister of Israel. Despite great obstacles, compounded by his own stubborn streak, Barak brought Israelis around to the idea of a historic peace agreement. Finally, the section on Sánchez de Lozada’s brief tenure as president of Bolivia tries to rebut an award-winning 2005 documentary that lambasted the actions of Greenberg and other American political consultants abroad. This attempt is only partially successful. Defending the pollsters’ role as a mediator between the people and their politicians, Greenberg fails to convince. However, his candor and wide range of experience makes for an illuminating memoir.
High-octane politics laid bare.