He was named by The Atlantic Monthly as "the most sought-after strategist in the Democratic party." He was targeted by National Review as the Democratic Party's "poet goon." From his unique perspective, Robert Shrum gives us an epic and personal story of the struggle for power in America during the past four decades.
With wit and humor, rare candor, and a wealth of detail, he vividly recounts the real personalities and real forces that shaped the outcome of the closest and most important elections of our time. We are there with Shrum in the back rooms, on the planes, and in the motorcades with Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Shrum reveals the manipulations and limitations of old and new forms of political persuasion, from the historic and sometimes controversial speeches he wrote to the negative ads he created for national and statewide candidates, from prepping presidential nominees for critical debates to the deployment of the new political weapon, the Internet.
He lifts the curtain on decisive moments. Did John Kerry and John Edwards actually believe in the Iraq war they voted for? What was the real reason the Kerry campaign didn't respond faster to the Swift Boat attacks? Why didn't Al Gore let Bill Clinton campaign all-out in 2000? How did Clinton get through the first perilous week of the Lewinsky scandal?
This is a provocative journey through recent history: George McGovern's antiwar campaign of 1972, the improbable rise of Jimmy Carter, Senate campaigns that made historic breakthroughs and shaped the presidential contests of the future, the gifts that made Bill Clinton a great politician -- and the circumstances and calculations that kept him from being a great president.
As strategist, adviser, and often friend to the leaders he enlisted with, Shrum shows them as they are, with their strengths and human weaknesses -- as well as his own.
Assailed as a populist who pushed the Democratic Party, in a phrase he coined, "to stand for the people, not the powerful," Shrum argues that unlike Republicans from Reagan on, Democrats fall short, politically or in office, when they trim their convictions and walk away from fundamental issues -- like universal health coverage. This is one of the most fascinating books ever written about the victories and defeats, the causes and candidates, the "flawed heroes" that drive the high drama of American politics.
Robert Shrum has been at the center of Democratic politics longer than virtually any other operative. Involved in more than thirty winning Senate races, he was senior strategist in the Gore 2000 and Kerry 2004 campaigns. He is a Senior Fellow at New York University's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, the writer Marylouise Oates.
"No Excuses made me cry. It was such a surprise. I did not expect a political book to be so emotionally involving. Bob Shrum doesn't just tell you what happens in all those smoke-filled rooms. He introduces you to the people you've been voting for and against for the last thirty-five years and he makes you feel as if you really know them. If you want to find out how our political process really works, read this book. Shrum puts you right in the whirlwind, and it is stunningly eye-opening." -- Ruth Reichl, author of Garlic and Sapphires:The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
"Bob Shrum's masterpiece of a memoir is a rare chance for his lucky readers to have their cake and eat it, too. Scores of historical, juicy tidbits are sprinkled throughout. In between these delicious treats is a sweeping narrative of nearly two generations of American politics by a key player who worked with or knew well every major, progressive figure of this tumultuous period. For those of us who worked through these exciting times from Vietnam and civil rights to the spectacular goofs of President Bush 43, this is the book we have been waiting for." -- Tom Oliphant, Washington columnist and author
"This is one of the very best political memoirs I have ever read. Never before have we seen such a penetrating view of the inside drama, tensions, and foibles of campaigns, consultants, and campaigners." -- Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
"Here is the way power is pursued and used in America, and Shrummie ought to know: the insider's insider -- funny, candid, and he writes like a dream." -- Richard Ben Cramer, author of What It Takes and Joe DiMaggio