From Publishers Weekly
With this lengthy but frequently gripping memoir, Shrum recounts his three-decade career in American politics, which he began as a speechwriter for New York's Mayor John Lindsay and ended as a campaign strategist for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. More insider history than memoir, the book focuses almost exclusively on the author's professional experience, featuring richly detailed accounts of his efforts working on Edward Kennedy's, Al Gore's and John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential bids (conversely, Shrum covers his engagement and wedding to Marylouise, his wife of 18 years, in three swift pages). Unsurprisingly, given his background, Shrum writes with eloquence and passion; more unexpected is his disarming candor. He's by turns effusive and brutal, for example waxing poetic about Edward Kennedy after vehemently criticizing Jimmy Carter. Later, he voices somewhat harsh ambivalence toward Bill Clinton. A deep sense of disappointment pervades the book: Shrum's string of failed presidential campaigns led to talk of the "Shrum curse," which the author never managed to overcome. Casual judgments and frank disclosures along the way make this a provocative and entertaining behind-the-scenes look at American politics. B&w photos not seen by PW
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With experience working with the presidential candidacies of eight Democrats, as well as on the elections of senators, governors, and mayors, and with a reputation that has ranged from wunderkind to curse, Shrum offers a long and broad perspective on the Democrats' political strategizing over the past 30 years. Among his clients: George McGovern, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, and John Kerry, as well as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Given their track records as winners and losers, Shrum's involvement in their candidacies has left him with a reputation as "the black cat of American politics, someone who had connived, confused, consulted, and condemned" Democratic candidates. Shrum recalls candidates in unguarded, vulnerable moments, when they actually spoke their minds, and in calculating moments, when they wanted the words—and ideas—placed in their mouths. Shrum also recalls the infighting, self-destruction, and spin typical of American politics as it has evolved in the last three decades. Although he does detail his own shortcomings, he laments the tendency to blame the consultant when the campaign ends in defeat. An enlightening and amusing look at American politics by a consummate insider. Bush, Vanessa Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved