The period leading to an election is a good time to learn more about the process of putting someone in the White House. “Selecting a President” (Thomas Dunne, $19.99) by Eleanor Clift and Matthew Spieler adds to the understanding of politics in an engaging manner.
The book offers a snapshot of the presidential election year, including the primaries, conventions, election day and inauguration day. A glossary offers a glance of past elections, a sample of speeches and the oath of office. What's more, the prose is unadorned and easy to read.
Fashioning campaign tours, including a discussion of battleground states, is one of the most interesting segments. Oklahoma is unlikely to get a candidate for campaign speeches. This state, like many others in the South, will not vote Democratic, so neither candidate will troll for votes here. Likewise, it is expected New York, Massachusetts and California will not vote Republican so neither candidate will gather dust in those states.
We often hear discussions about whether negative advertising is effective. The authors give an unqualified “yes.” Usually the incumbent has an advantage, but we sometimes oust sitting presidents, as with George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
Dirty tricks abound in campaigns, with those of Richard Nixon offering prime examples. Many wonder about the present public distrust and cynicism toward government. The authors contend Nixon spawned so much of it that “the country has arguably never recovered.”
Clift, a contributor to Newsweek and The Daily Beast, is a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group.” Spieler is a former reporter and political analyst for Congressional Quarterly. The word on the street is “they know their stuff.”
— Dennie Hall