Bad Boy: The Life And Politics Of Lee Atwater

Brady, John

Published by Adisson-Wesley
ISBN 10: 0201627337 / ISBN 13: 9780201627336
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Synopsis: Lee Atwater revolutionized presidential campaigning. He helped to create a solid Republican south. And he became notorious for turning national politics back into a blood sport, not only using nasty attacks but reveling in his image as the bad boy of Washington. Then, at the age of 39, Atwater was struck by a brain tumor. In thirteen months, cancer ended the most controversial career in modern politics—the charismatic, colorful, and contradictory life of Lee Atwater.Even today Atwater is a fallen leader Republicans love and a rival Democrats love to hate. He was the first political handler as mediagenic as his candidates—certainly the first chairman of the Republican National Committee to record a blues album. His campaigns represent the high-water mark of the GOPs postwar dominance of the presidency, and his techniques set the tone for races across the country. Watching Washington since his death, politicians and pundits still wonder, What if Lee Atwater had lived? Bad Boy reveals how Lee Atwater began his career controlling crowds as jittery class clown, traumatized by the agonizing death of his little brother. In college he discovered the subtle intercourse of policy and public opinion and grew from party animal to party man. Bad Boy details Atwater's political strategies from the grass roots to the national level. Even more ruthless were the behind-the-scenes power games as he crossed paths, and occasionally crossed swords, with nearly every major Republican of the 1980s: Reagan, Bush, Baker, Ailes, Rollins, and many more.In Bad Boy, we also see the faces Atwater tried to spin away. He was a compulsive womanizer, climbing through windows to avoid reporters. He played radical politics but promoted ?big tent? Republicanism. Even his last public moment is controversial. Did Atwater's deathbed words really repudiate entire campaigns, or were they twisted by political enemies and second-hand reporting? Was his repentance sincere or simply one last gasp of press manipulation? Was he responsible for the infamous Willie Horton ads, or was he unfairly blamed by 1988s losers, trying for a moral victory? Is Lee Atwater, a master of spin, now being spun in his grave?In its sudden end, Atwater's remarkable life resembled the rise and fall of a fine political novel. With the probing insights of an expert interviewer and a rare stylistic verve, John Brady tells that whole frantic, fascinating story—the life of the baddest boy in D.C.

From Kirkus Reviews: Brady (Journalism/Univ. of Missouri), former editor of Boston magazine, provides an entertaining account of the notorious Republican political operative. Lee Atwater led the way in refining the basic tools of negative campaigning--attack ads, dirty tricks, and manipulation of the press--that dominate contemporary politics. Unconcerned with issues or consequences for the country, this devotee of Machiavelli approached political campaigns as wars to be won at any cost. These activities alone offer sufficient material for a juicy biography, but when you throw in continual womanizing, an addiction to exercise and to such musical genres as rock 'n' roll and the blues, and death from a brain tumor, his story takes on a larger-than-life quality. Wisely, Brady presents his material in a detached manner, letting Atwater's actions speak for themselves. The only significant exception to this approach is his discussion of the infamous Willie Horton television commercials, where Brady bends over backwards to minimize Atwater's responsibility. Nevertheless, by the last chapter we have become so inured to Atwater's antics that a final, potentially appalling incident is unsurprising. Confronted with a serious illness, he declares his love for his secretary/personal assistant, installs her as primary keeper and sometime bedmate in his family home (while living with his wife, children, and mother), then finds the emotional strain too intense and completely withdraws from her. Brady points to the tragic death of his brother when Atwater was five, along with his obvious hyperactivity and a penchant for manipulating people and information, to explain Atwater's behavior and personality. Whatever demons were behind his obsessions and skills, however, the result was a political strategist of the highest caliber. If we also criticize Atwater as amoral, we must ask further: What does this say about the candidates who were eager to hire him, and about the political system in which his tactics were successful? A combination of cynical political reality and modern tragedy, this volume is well worth reading. (b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Title: Bad Boy: The Life And Politics Of Lee ...
Publisher: Adisson-Wesley

Binding: Hardcover
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