A former “political opposition specialist” for high-profile Republicans recounts the sordid story of his evolution from right-wing political hit man to unrepentant centrist.
For more than a decade, Marks was “Oppo Man,” the go-to guy for Republicans who wanted dirt on their opponents. His job was to dig up damaging information on his clients’ political opposition and deliver it to pollsters, who figured out which bits would be most damaging in the public mind and then fed them to the media. Among Marks’s greatest hits: helping elect (and re-elect) George W. Bush as Texas governor in 1994 and 1998 and as president in 2000 and 2004; helping North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms defeat Harvey Gantt in 1996; and orchestrating the Republican juggernaut in Texas in 1998. His “right wing political beliefs began to crack,” he writes, during the 1996 presidential campaign, when neither Bob Dole nor Jack Kemp was able to attack Bill Clinton for his philandering because both had a history of adultery. By the time of Clinton’s impeachment, in the author’s opinion, “the Republican Party was weak because it was rotting from the inside, collapsing from the weight of its own flagrant hypocrisy.” Unfortunately, Marks is not as adept at examining his own actions as he is at condemning those of others; he makes brief mention of his womanizing and work for corrupt clients like Jack Abramoff but seems reluctant to draw any insights from those experiences. And his late adoption of centrist politics is a bit of a mystery: He expounds at length about his realization that the Republicans are ethically “just as bad” as the Democrats, but glosses over the political reasons for his transformation with a few brief remarks about the “extremism” of both the left and right wings of American politics.
Despite its flaws, a dark, damning and entertaining account from the campaign trenches.