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Bad Boy: The Life And Politics Of Lee Atwater Hardcover – December 30, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An equally apt title for this would be Anatomy of a Politico, for in reading this life of the man who made negative campaigning a household word, introduced the concept of the permanent campaign and is credited with helping Bush beat Dukakis in 1988 with the Willy Horton issue (about a pardoned recidivist), one senses that Atwater lived for little else than politics. While claiming that no one knew Atwater well, Brady (The Craft of Interviewing) fleshes out the life of South Carolina-born Harvey Leroy (Lee) Atwater with pertinent aspects of his upbringing, marriage and life in politics. He details the rise of Atwater from greenhorn to Beltway insider, where he became chairman of the Republican National Committee, "the first professional political consultant to head either political party." A strength of Brady's presentation is that he lets readers decide what they think of his protagonist, by whom he seems fascinated, though not to the point of losing his objectivity. Although there's more dope here than some might wish, a full-bodied view emerges of the man whom brain cancer struck down at age 40 in 1991, when he was near the height of his powers.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Prior to his death from cancer at age 40 in 1991, Republican campaign manager Lee Atwater was one of the most admired and hated men in American politics. His greatest accomplishment was guiding Vice President George Bush to a comeback victory over Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in 1988. Bush's comeback was partially the result of Atwater's skillful use of "attack" television commercials directed at Dudakkis's record as governor of Massachusetts. Even before the 1988 campaign Atwater had acquired a reputation for negative and mean-spirited campaigning. Journalist Brady's biography not only documents Atwater's considerable political talents but also examines the often manipulative relationships that were a major part of Atwater's professional and private lives. Brady does not present sufficient evidence to justify his characterization of Atwater as "the best political campaign manager who ever lived," but his book is an excellent introduction for lay readers to the career of a man who helped define the modern political campaign.?Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Adisson-Wesley; 1St Edition edition (December 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201627337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201627336
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Like Lee Atwater himself, this biography is entertaining, and quick-and-dirty. Also like Atwater, it is essentially skin deep, offering little assessment on how a figure like Atwater could arise and become so powerful within the Republican Party so fast. There's also not much about Atwater's innovation -- "oppo" research-based politics that turned the nascent 24-hour news cycle to the advantage of the savvier campaign. Atwater invented the style of "war room" campaigning that was enhanced by another southerner, James Carville, four years later.
Still, the book is well-crafted and does an excellent job of chronicling Atwater's life. It is especially admirable for revealing the truth about Atwater's alleged deathbed renunciation of hardball politics -- which never really happened. The real story is far more interesting.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Lee Atwater knew politics and how to work it. This book gives a compelling look at the transformation of a good ol' boy into the man responsible for the election of the most powerful man in the world. Mr. Brady does a fine job of showing all sides of Lee. From the insecurities that drove his attitude through the frailities of a man on his death bed,this book does justice to the real man. Lee Atwater set the trend for the future of politics. This book is a must read for anyone in the business of getting people elected.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Atwater was pretty much a moral scumbag, but the father of politics as we know it today. He did it his way and for that he is a hero. Brady tells the truth about the man and his life. Reading, you feel like a part of the action. It's a great book, but don't pick it up unless you're comfortable being obsessed with politics for the rest of your life!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Lee Atwater was the founding father of today's political professional. Brady's book reveals all sides of Atwater's personality -- from the man who intimidated many to the fun-loving blues player. A very interesting story and a must-read for anyone in the business of getting people elected.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matt Lewis on March 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
About the political life of Lee Atwater, "the godfather of spin," this book details Atwater's political strategies, from managing local races to running Bush's 1988 campaign. Woven into the biography are valuable lessons about campaigning -- information that they don't teach you in college. Though many disagree with Lee Atwater's personal -- and political -- life, it shouldn't dissuade you from learning from this brilliant strategist. (We certainly don't endorse his sins, but you'd better understand them if you're going to work in politics).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on December 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
More so than most American political figures, Lee Atwater is proving in death to be much larger than he was in life. It is so in part because Atwater's magic or gift to American politics was his uncanny ability to tap into the nation's bloodstream at that critical juncture where good and evil intersected, and then be able to cull the "low-hanging fruit" from the evil side, fruit that had otherwise been a hodge-podge of mean-spirited themes that reflected badly on the nation's character, and yet as a behind-the-scenes political operative, be able to turn them into an ideological message that rendered much of America's dark rightwing politics both coherent and respectable. Considering how many times it had been tried before and failed, this was no mean trick, and remains a testament to Atwater's consummate skills.

To those who loved him, (and his funeral was a virtual hall of fame of the rightwing of the U.S. political spectrum) and for the reasons noted above, he remains the Chief spear-carrier, messenger and keepers of the rightwing faith. For those who hated him, he was and will forever remain an impresario of evil, the alter ego and muse of the dark side of American politics. Either way, Jon Brady has penned a mini-master piece here. This is a careful tracking of and reconstruction of the man, his times, and the influences that produced one of the nation's most incendiary behind-the-scenes political operatives of our times. Brady leaves no stones unturned. It is what good biography is made of.

Atwater himself leaves no doubts about the evilness of his own body of work as he made a deathbed confession in which he asked god and the nation to forgive him for what he had done.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Joseph Brady's biography is likely to be the definitive study of the late Lee Atwater. It is meticulously researched and engagingly written. His presentation is sympathetic to Atwater but not flattering. It is must reading for anyone interested in the national politics of contemporary America
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