Election 2004: How Bush Won and What You Can Expect in the Future

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1586482930
ISBN-10: 1586482939
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mutual contempt fueled a presidential contest between candidates who "disliked each other before they knew each other." That's the jumping off point for Thomas, Newsweek's assistant managing editor, and a coterie of reporters in this insider look at the campaigns of George W. Bush and John Kerry. Since politics is "intensely personal," the writers contend that "it is impossible to understand the 2004 presidential campaign without appreciating the nature of the animus between the two men." Both candidates encouraged dueling caricatures rooted in their Yale University experiences. Kerry saw students like Bush as "insular," while Bush apparently felt people like Kerry were "sanctimonious suck-ups." This premise drives an account focused more by prickly personalities than by issues like war or the economy, which the reporting team claims were trumped by "more visceral concerns" like strength and resolve. The journalists had "unusual access" to Bush, Kerry, their staffs and families, yet what follows in these pages won't surprise anyone familiar with the mainstream media coverage. There's Karl Rove's "mystique of an all-seeing, all-knowing boss of bosses," Kerry's cell phone obsession, Laura Bush's "perfect-wife way," etc. Some stories do stand out. The disciplined Bush campaign contrasts starkly with the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen chaos that plagued the Kerry effort. And during the Swift Boat controversy, the journalists note how Kerry caved into top aides' fears about voter reaction, ignoring his gut instinct to immediately "hit back." Nonetheless, the book does little to dispel Kerry's own critique of Newsweek's "gossipy" reporting. The analysis is also unremarkable: prognostications on cabinet reshufflings, Social Security reform, Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential ambitions and other topics ring familiar bells. Readers seeking confirmations rather than revelations about how the president won re-election will find them in abundance here. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A fast-paced account of the bitter and most expensive presidential race in American history." -- Library Journal, February 15, 2005

"A good read and a chance to see the inside of the campaign, without a year-long time commitment." -- Campaigns & Elections, February 2005

"Get a copy of [this] book." -- Rush Limbaugh

"Quite a piece of reportage... largely successful." -- Weekly Standard, January 24, 2005

"There is much to recommend in Evan Thomas's 'Election 2004'..." -- New York Sun, January 25, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482930
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Evan Thomas is one of the most respected historians and journalists writing today. He is the bestselling author of nine works of nonfiction: Being Nixon, Ike's Bluff, The War Lovers, Sea of Thunder, John Paul Jones, Robert Kennedy, The Very Best Men, The Man to See, and The Wise Men (with Walter Isaacson). Thomas was an editor, writer, and reporter at Newsweek for 24 years, where he was the author of more than a hundred cover stories.
Thomas has won numerous journalism awards, including a National Magazine Award in 1998. In 2005, his 50,000-word narrative of the 2004 election was honored when Newsweek won a National Magazine Award for the best single-topic issue.
Thomas is a fellow of the Society of American Historians and has taught writing at Princeton and Harvard. He is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School. He lives with his wife and two children in Washington, DC.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By F. Kim on January 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is based on the reporting that initially appeared in the special post-election issue of Newsweek in November, 2004. There are some minor additions to what appeared in the magazine here, notably the last chapter, which includes Kerry's reflections about the election, as well as speculation on the likely character of the second Bush administration, but otherwise there are few new revelations.

Newsweek's reporters were allowed access to both the Democratic and Republican campaigns for the year prior to Election Day, in exchange for not reporting what they saw until after the process was over. The story they tell is of one campaign headed by a candidate who had a hard time making up his mind, with subordinates who frequently clashed and suspected each other's motivations, while the other was dominated by a candidate who, while petulant, prickly, and stubborn, was supported by an unfailingly upbeat and single-minded staff.

Interesting highlights here that did not make it out into the mainstream news coverage include anecdotes about how confident Karl Rove was that Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee, to the point of making bets on it, and just how frustrated the campaign staff on Kerry's side was over its inability to improve the candidate's long-winded speaking style. More of the book's embarrassing disclosures come from the Democratic campaign than the Republican one, however, and Kerry himself complained about the way he and his wife were portrayed in the Newsweek special issue. As a result this volume includes a few of his ammendations to the record.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on April 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
After reading this book I came to the realization that maybe good non fiction book is like a bottle of wine, a bit of age helps it out. I do not know if the book was a high level shallow review of the topic because it was rushed out the door or if it was due to the authors usual writing styles are best suited for 5 page magazine articles. Either way, the puddle created by a melting snowball would have more depth then this book. With that said, I do give this book credit for what it did deliver, a somewhat gossipy and interesting overview of the 2004 presidential election. It was just that the authors made claims on the dust jacket about it being the definitive account of the 2004 election, which could not be farther from the truth of the matter.

I am a political junky and must say again that I did enjoy the book. The authors give he reader an easy to read and fast paced account of many of the highlights of the last election. They have a tabloid reports eye for interesting bits of information that they string together using the overall race as a method to give you more gossip. They did seem to have more access to the Kerry campaign, which should not be a surprise given he was the challenger. They also seemed to me to be fair in their treatment of both candidates. As a matter of fact I thought if anything they went too easy on both parties when talking about some of the mistakes. With this being said, if you are die hard fan of either of the two candidates you may find some of the book a bit annoying, but I think the authors were bland enough to keep the true fans on the positive side of full blown rage.

Overall I was disappointed in the book from a expectation point of view.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jeff in Texas on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read the original Newsweek special edition of this book and loved it. It was a fascinating look at what the campaign strategies and mistakes were. First let me say I'm a big Bush fan. I did not detect a lot of liberal bias in this book. Sure, they dismiss the Swift Vets with no analysis and fawn over Kerry's performance in the debates. However the overall impression you get from the book is that the Kerry campaign was completely disorganized and dysfunctional, Kerry had no core beliefs and therefore his positions were in a constant state of flux, the Bush team were total pros, and Bush never wavered from his positions. If I did not already know Eleanor Clift was a huge apologist for the Democrats, I would have thought the book was written by Republicans. Actually what I see is some liberal bias and a ton of frustration from the writers. Inside they can't believe how bad the Kerry campaign was.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Drew on March 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
For a political junkie, this one is a nice start, as it really does provide some of the 'behind the scenes' commentary and detail others lack. However, having said that, I was really disappointed with how little detail the book did provide on the campaigns. Yes, it's perfectly obvious the Newsweek staff got a lot closer to the Kerry campaign than they did to the Bush campaign. And yes, that means they treat the Kerry side of the story with a lot more sympathy than they do the Bush side. It surprised me how much of the inside Kerry story never got out during the campaign (I watched the election campaign obsessively, I admit it). It also surprised me that one of the key Kerry gaffes (I would have authorized Bush to go to war even knowing about the lack of WMDs) nearly was killed by the press on the Kerry campaign and the book spends two pages on the discussion of whether or not to report it. It would certainly seem to, at a bare minimum, indicate that the press was a lot more willing to give Kerry the benefit of the doubt than Bush, and subsequent revelations only reinforce that thought.

Having said that, I have to say that the Bush campaign may have did themselves more harm than good in keeping the press at arms length, as it may have led to less favorable coverage simply because they couldn't get access for an inside scoop. The fear that that scoop would be invariably negative seems the reason for that decision, but it may not have been the best one, as there were Bush-favoring press and columnists out there, though few and far between.

What surprised me the most was not what was in the book, but what was left out of it. Not a word on Republican reactions during the Democratic Convention.
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