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on 23 August 1998
Some of the reviewers on this page have lambasted Lewis for not taking the campaign seriously enough. Come on guys!!! Have you ever READ any of Michael's previous books? This book was not meant to be a serious in-depth analysis of the campaign. That's what we have people like George Will and Bob Woodward for. Sure, Lewis focused time on Morry Taylor, an unknown. However, the parts about the Grizzz were the most enjoyable of the book. I didn't care about the candidates when they were running, so why the hell would I want to read about them now.
Lewis has truly captured the absurdity of the whole election year process. Pointing out how the only true candidate to speak freely (Taylor) got killed early on, as oppossed to the scripted efforts of the other candidates, was a sad reflection on how Americans are buying into the dog and pony shows as oppossed to ideas.
Read this book for a light hearted, enjoyable view of the 1996 campaign. If you want serious, this is not the place to be.
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on 5 November 1997
While I concur with most of the comments above, I must dissent on one point. While a fascinating story teller, Mr. Lewis seemed to forget the point of the book: Following the political nominating process from start to finish, commenting about the democratic process writ large. He begins this task skillfully, reciting wonderful anectodes about each candidate as they trudged across Iowa and New Hampshire. A third of the way through, however, Mr. Lewis became increasingly -- almost disturbingly -- obsessed with Morrey Taylor, tire maven and political idiot savant. To be sure, Mr. Taylor never rose above the level of a joke, but nonetheless, Mr. lewis focused on him like he was the next Jack Kennedy, chronicling his almost every move while ignoring the real dynamic at work -- Pat Buchanan's upset victory in New Hampshire. I believe Mr. Lewis spent about 30 pages on the grizz, while synopsizing the significance of Buchanan's New Hampshire victory in about three sentences. The real drama of the 1996 primary season was not so much the Talyors, Dornan's Keyes et al, but rather Buchanan, Dole and Forbes. By the looks of it, this simple fact was lost on Mr. Lewis. Perpahs the "Grizz" and his collection of side kicks proved more entertaining, but certainly his impact on electoral politics is negligible at best. Buchanan was the first Republican to ever with the New Hampshire primary and fail to win the nomination: Now that is news. That was the real story. Not the Grizz. Mr. Lewis should be commended on his persistence and keen story telling ability, but he should be scolded for taking his eye of the ball. Go Pat Go.
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on 8 August 1997
I am a political junkie and proud of it. I also live in Iowa and get a great chance to meet presidential candidates. I love to read books about campaigns, particularly campaigns with which I have some familiarity. This book was great! I loved his anecdotes about the campaigns. I was suprised at how much I agreed with his conclusions about campaigns and candidates today. He rightly observes that the people who would make the best presidents really don't have a chance - that it is the drive to campaign constantly and a skill at campaigning and sound bites that really determines elections today. Sad, but true. Lewis properly characterizes Dole and his campaign. It was fated from the start when Dole had tremendous support from governors, but no one was excited about Dole. Even Dole wasn't excited about Dole. And the rented strangers certainly weren't. The only thing I haven't yet come to grips with is his portrayal of Lamar Alexander, my favorite. I just think Lamar can't really be as evil as Lewis portrays him.
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on 26 June 1997
This highly entertaining and intelligent accountof the '96 Presidential campaign is a fun and breezy read yet the nonchalant tone hides a sharp and perceptive view of American politics at the end of a century.The author draws you in saying, hey, I've never done this before, I know nothing about campaigns, but so? A quarter into the book I found myself laughing,smiling and enjoying the characterizations of the candidates and events, especially funny as they probably happened. The writer doesn't take himself too seriously while conveying a sense that it's possible to glimpse the real person behind the candidate if you manage to get close. This adds strength and depth to the story. Who hasn't said "politicians?they're all the same".Yet we know that isn't really true. There is a sense that the subjects are approached honestly,without prejudice resulting in descriptions thankfully void of cliches.
Did Steve Forbes really learn his lines by rote then never, ever strayed even when (or if) caught off guard? He did.And he didn't. Did Bob Dole's "rented strangers"-handlers hide him for fear that the American people would see the "real" Bob Dole, the one he so often referred to "Bob Dole keeps his word...Bob Dole'll win big time." Was Morry Taylor "The Grizz" the only real American in this campaign,the one who's made his money the American way thus freeing him from having "middle class" manners but not from the guilt that appears to pull so many moneyed individuals into politics. I'm giving something back!Here, a few million dollars of MY OWN MONEY in exchange for office!But the landscape is not complete without persons such as Senator John McCain. Can you be cynical about a Senator who has turned personal pain and tragedy into success, who thrives in infested Washington waters and still speaks his mind without handlers and spindoctors?
Run out and get this book, you'll be entertained and inspired.You could also be ahead and behind the scenes at the next campaign. We should beware, some of the same candidates will be back on the nightly news,waving from atop an airplane doorway,hello America, anyone down there?
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on 24 June 1997
Early in "Trail Fever", we find Republican candidate Morry "TheGrizz" Taylor in big trouble. Taylor is an irascible self-made industrialist who spent several million of his own dollars running for president. Lewis likes Taylor precisely because he does what neither Clinton or Dole will ever do: say exactly what is on his mind, without regard for his image or his standing in the polls. ^M Now, however, "The Grizz" himself seems to be practicing the black art of spin doctoring: a dark secret from his past has emerged, and Lewis has stumbled upon the disillosioning sight of Taylor and an aide trying to keep the story from erupting in the press.
To Lewis' relief - and ours - it turns out that Morry's secret is a great act of charity that he had wished to keep anonymous.
We're relieved mainly because Taylor, for all his crackpot ideas and he-man arrogance, had seemed to be one of the few genuine people in a world of professional phonies. Of course no sensible person, Lewis included, would want Morry Taylor to become president. But Lewis' chronicle shows that the Grizz and some of his fellow also-rans - Alan Keyes, Ralph Nader, even Pat Buchanan - were the only candidates to bring genuine passion, ideas, and honesty to the 1996 campaign. Lewis bemoans not that they were losers, but that their way of running a campaign seems destined to lose in our current political climate.
"Trail Fever" takes us all over the poltical map, from Iowa pig farms to the gates of the Citadel to the tiny Boston office of a forgotten man named Michael Dukakis. Lewis excels in rendering moments of surreal hilarity, such as his banishment from the Dole plane for videotaping a plate of shrimp. Actually, he is better off not being on the plane: he's at his best when he goes where he isn't supposed to and gives us a glimpse behind the wizard's curtain. After a Dole vs. Clinton debate in October, he makes unauthorized visits to the separate inner sanctums where the rival campaigns had viewed the proceedings.
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on 1 September 1998
A great read. Michael Lewis, made famous for his witty observations about the machinations of Wall Street, turns his attention to the boring, quagmire that was the 1996 Presidential Campaign. This book is a cynics delight. Michael Lewis' deft observation of the mechanics and characters of the the 1996 Presidential Campaign will make the reader laugh and cry at the same time. If your read his books on Wall Street, you will enjoy this book.
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on 17 June 1997
If you read Liar's Poker you will have to read this one.Although the subject matter is politics this is not the usual on the road book. It shows the human side of compaining. Of course if the candidate is less then human you will find some very amusing and insitful reason for sucess and failure. You will read why the best man doesn't win, and the american public lose is most elections.
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on 7 July 1998
You'd hardly know that Bill Clinton ran against Bob Dole from reading this book. Lewis spends far too much time and energy focused on Morry Taylor, who was irrelevant in 1996, and it was mostly because Taylor invited him along. He didn't get access to the big campaigns so he wrote them off as uninteresting. Lewis doesn't give much insight into contemporary political campaigns and the interesting anecdotes that usually save books like this are few and far between. Read Richard Ben Cramer or the Newsweek crowd for a much better treatment of the presidential campaign.
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on 4 May 1999
Way too much cynicism.
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