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No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner Hardcover – June 5, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743296516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743296519
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,888,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard M. Marano on June 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you enjoy reading an insider's account of a presidential campaign, then this book is difficult to pass up. Shrum is as candid as ever, and has produced a powerfully well-written and passionate memoir. He presents an inside look into several presidential campaigns from his vantage point, and pulls no punches. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Shrum's analysis, kudos to him for his honesty.
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Format: Hardcover
Shrum is first and foremost, a wordsmith, a speechwriter, which led to political consulting. From the start of the book where he describes meeting JFK as a teenager---to the conclusion, in which Sen. Edward Kennedy throws Shrum a retirement party, the book is filled with interesting stuff about politics. A true "inside-baseball" account of the presidential races in recent decades.
Shrum seems even-handed in his assessment of people in politics, and the times he reveals unflattering information about people doesn't come across as score-settling, but simply telling it like it is. All good political books have to have some new information---some zingers about political stars, but Shrum's assessment of people is balanced by both positive and negative information. The one guy who seems to get no criticism in the book is Ted Kennedy, and it is clear that Ted and Shrum are close friends and that Shrum has too much respect for the Kennedys to
throw in any zingers about him or his clan. A great read by a great writer.
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Format: Hardcover
When I first saw Bob Schrum's book on the shelves at my local book store, I pulled it out, cracked the cover, and sat cross-legged right there on the floor, inhaling about 100 pages before my wife Holly caught my attention, and said we should be on our way.

I bought the book that I'd already marked with my notes, and tabbed.

I read it that evening, all the way through, couldn't put it down.

If you like great writing, are somewhat of a political obsessive, and are dying to know what goes on in political campaigns, you should read this book. You won't be disappointed - except you'll find it went by too fast and want more. I did.

To appreciate my point of view, you have to understand that I have always thought that Schrum could turn a phrase or see an argument in a way few could, and I've always thought that he did this with high-minded compassion for the underdog that has survived numerous campaigns and, even more challenging to his integrity, that has endured his own commercial success.

I know there are folk out there who pulled out their long swords to cut at Schrum's revelations and the story he had to tell and that wish him ill. The most prominent of these you can find in Schrum's table of contents so you can see for yourself, if so inclined, precisely how Schrum dispatches the unworthy.

Sour grape critics aside, if you want to get a sense of present politics and past history, this is a book that you must read.

It tells you how Schrum realized his own appetite and skill for the political adventure that became his life story, whether it was his gift to merge the right word with the moment, or to turn the precisely correct argument into a rhetorical pirouhette.
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Format: Hardcover
The author is sort of like the Forest Gump of Democratic politics. He seems to be there or close by in all of the major events within the democratic party over the past 40 years. Any political fan of any party will love this book. It gives you a front row seat on national political events. The same talent that wrote scores of speeches for various democrats which motivated millions is the sane voice that tells this story.The book is interesting and flows easily.

The author tells the little stories in the book behind every democratic presidential candidate. Those stories make this book the 2007 version of the old Theodore White books about the making of the presidents. I am sure it will be required reading soon in most political science programs across the country.

The book is just lots of little stories about the campaigns. It isn't a big study of the issues or events. Those stories do bring texture to the campaigns we all have seen on the news. Through those stories a reader can see what has taken over US politics in both countries. The issues seem not to matter. It is winning over all else. What matters is the game and the resulting victory. Ideas and issues don't seem to matter. You see that through Shrum's stories and comments. He even talks about where campaigns go with what the polls say not what they feel is right. There is very little hard facts, analysis or answers to the why. He also brings up the fact that he knew of the Clinton problem before the election. That makes one think of personal accountability for the by products of his "spinning".

Over all the book is entertaining and any political fan will love it.
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Format: Hardcover
Whether or not you agree politically with Robert Shrum, "No Excuses" is a no holds barred look at his career as a speechwriter and as a consultant. From McGovern to Kerry, Shrum has been at the right hand of those running for office and those serving...it's been quite a ride and he captures it with style and panache.

Most of us who are aware of the author know two things about him.....he's been on tv a lot over the past years... (his countenance is one not easily forgotten) and his track record for lending a hand in unsuccessful presidential races has been, well, astoundingly bad. Shrum acknowledges this but he has a great amount of self-deprecation in these losses and shares some of the blame when things haven't gone well. But he reminds readers that he has been very good at getting senators and governors elected. This might seem to be a covering explanation for the presidential level, but the political process is filled with those who need to be elected if they want to further their aspirations.

The "not so surprising" aspect of "No Excuses" is that Shrum can write well! (he can't drive or type, he tells us) The book never lets down and keeps forging ahead from one campaign to the next with the author contributing his take on the candidates and others around him. He minces no words about those he likes and dislikes. Certainly Ted Kennedy and Shrum's own astute wife, Marylouise, are the political and personal heroes of his life. The backroom decision-making processes are what makes his experience so intriguing. Especially of concern was his listening to and advising both John Kerry and John Edwards about their 2002 vote authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. No clear-cut ideologies here.
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