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AND I QUOTE / What Political Books Are Saying

November 03, 1996|John Balzar

This year, political books themselves became the news. Imagine it: political books on TV, books on Page 1, books on the covers of magazines, book chat on the Net. Colin Powell started things with his biography--the tease. Hillary Clinton evoked a village to try and hold back her critics. She should have dug a moat, too. And who said liberals don't have a sense of humor? Al Franken inquired which was more bloated, Rush Limbaugh's thinking or his waistline.

The bigger event, though, was "Blood Sport," as James Stewart lit into the Clintons with intensity unsurpassed in contemporary times. Soon to follow: books by Gary Aldrich and then Roger Morris. But, to judge by polls, they had little consequence. Which brings us to James Fallows, who roasted 1990s journalists as jaundiced bottom-feeders in "Breaking the News." Bigger still: "Primary Colors," which came down to the color green--money and envy enough to unsettle half of Washington. With no campaign to manage, Ed Rollins recounted the old ones, giving Republicans and Ross Perot a "Bare Knuckles" lesson in free-market kiss-and-sell. Bob Woodward went for the novel, as in journalistic novelty. Is it possible, he asked with "The Choice," to write a worthy campaign account before the campaign? Short answer: no.

So now, our once sagging shelf of 1996 campaign books is nearly empty. There remains a book on presidential sex that we never quite could face. But, too, there are memories of books worth reading again, such as Godfrey Hodgson's history of American conservatism, "The World Turned Right Side Up," and Richard Reeves' "Running in Place," a slim but insightful account of why we are uneasy with our first baby boomer in the White House. Also, Michael Elliott's challenge to America's pessimism, "The Day Before Yesterday."

For the moment, though, America awaits the day after tomorrow. Whew.

With this column, "And I Quote" retires for the 1996 election season.

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