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Convention Hardcover – 1977
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The book details everything from the Carter Campaign's bizarrely paranoid attempt to bug the Convention Hall to the strongarm tactics used by Chairman Robert Struass to control the convention to 18 year-old delegate Clare Smith's valient attempts to track down Hunter S. Thompson. As well, we read about future Ohio Governor Richard Celeste's endless attempts to promote his own future viability as a presidential candidate and George Wallace's agony at fading into the background. Perhaps the most amusing sections for me were the ones dealing with joyful convention crashed Joe Kaselask and is attempts to sneak his way onto national television.
At times while reading this book, I had to remind myself that the events detailed within took place a quarter of a century ago. Many of the most fascinating characters (like Hubert Humphrey, Pat Brown, Mo Udall, and Wallace)are no long with us, while other leading characters (Celeste, Fritz Efaw) have sunk into relative obscurity. I find myself wondering what happened to some of the non-politicians in the book. Has Clare Smith ever attended another Democratic Convention? Did Joe Kaselask go onto crash the 1980 Convention?
Another added pleasure came from occasionally running across minor characters who would later go on to achieve a prominence apart from their actions at the '76 Convention. A good example of this would be wheelchair-bound, anti-war activist Ron Kovic, later to become better known as Tom Cruise but here presented as somewhat of a blowhard. Even a pre-anchorman Tom Brokaw shows up, long enough to get into a brawl while yelling at his antagonist, "I won't forget you, creep!"
Appropriately enough, the only character who seems to have been exactly the same in '76 as he is now would have to be then-Governor, now-Mayor Jerry Brown. Brown, with his enigmatic presence and refusal to take anything at the convetion too seriously, actually emerges as one of the few pure characters in the book. In fact, Brown turns out to be more Carter-like than Jimmy Carter himself.
In the end, imagine Robert Altman directing a political convention and that's what you have with Richard Reeves' wonderful book. Its non-fiction that reads like a brilliantly satirical novel. Last time I looked, there were 27 used copies of this book available so take a chance and order one. You won't be sorry.