Item description for Playing President: My Close Ecounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton-and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush by Gore Vidal, Michelle J. Rhodes, John T. Morgan, Eida de la Vega, Jason Knudson & Helton G. Baynes...
Robert Scheer's interviews with and profiles of US presidents have shaped journalism history. Scheer developed close journalistic relationships with Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush I. His reporting on them had a tangible impact on national debate, such as the eminent 1976 Playboy interview in which Jimmy Carter, the then-presidential candidate, admitted to have lusted in his heart; and the 1980 interview with the L.A. Times, during which Bush I confessed to Scheer his dream of a "winnable nuclear war."
In Playing President, Robert Scheer offers an unparalleled insight into the presidential mind. He analyses each administration since Nixon, and including George W. Bush, offering insights that will surprise the reader-particularly those with rigid preconceptions about the decision-making processes of our leaders. The volume will also include reprints of Scheer's famous presidential interviews, along with previously unpublished interview transcripts and select previous writings.
Robert Scheer is the author of six books, including Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power; With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War; and America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals. Along with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry, he is the coauthor of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq (Seven Stories/Akashic). Scheer is currently a clinical professor of communications at the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. He is a nationally syndicated columnist based at the Los Angeles Times, a contributing editor at the Nation, and a host of NPR-affiliate KCRW's Left, Right, and Center.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25" Weight: 0.65 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 2006
Publisher Akashic Books
ISBN 1933354011 ISBN13 9781933354019
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More About Gore Vidal, Michelle J. Rhodes, John T. Morgan, Eida de la Vega, Jason Knudson & Helton G. Baynes
Robert Scheer is the author of six books, the host of NPR's "Left,Right, and Center" and a contributing editor to both Los Angeles Times and The Nation
Robert Scheer currently resides in the state of California.
Reviews - What do customers think about Playing President: My Close Ecounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton-and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush?
Robt Scheer tells all on all. Nov 7, 2007
Playing President is an insghtful,well balanced review of six Presidents as candidates and as president that I would recommend to anyone who is concerned about where we are and how we got here. His assessment of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush1, Clinton,and Bush2 is sometimes painful and sometimes complimentary, but always fair. This should be required reading for Pundits,and newspersons.
A Loose Collection of Impressions Oct 15, 2006
The title of this book suggests something more than it is, a collection of the interviews that Scheer conducted in fleeting moments during the election campaigns of the presidents named. As such, the interviews are well worth reprinting and rereading, especially that with the enigmatic Jimmy Carter. One might have wished, however, that Scheer would have composed his retrospective thoughts about these interviews more thoroughly, evaluated the package more cogently. The book-in-hand seems just a bit lazy.
An impressive collection of informative interviews by award-winning "Los Angeles Times" journalist Robert Sheer Jun 8, 2006
Playing President is an impressive collection of informative interviews by award-winning "Los Angeles Times" journalist Robert Sheer with the presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Senior. Deftly compiled and analyzed to create a sound basis for understanding each of these former presidents in terms of their respective parts played in the national debates and issues of their respective administrations, Playing President offers readers a wealth of insights into their lives, minds, and decisions which had historically influenced and shaped the American political front during the course of the second half of the twentieth century. A core addition to academic library "Political Science" reference collections, Playing President is very strongly recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the American presidency for its wide-range of informative and first hand accounts drawn from direct interviews with the men who occupied that august office.
Essential Civic Education & Fun To Read May 11, 2006
Let's forget about the founding fathers for a while. The recent flood of books on America's first generation of politicians has often been informative, but none is as immediately essential as Robert Scheer's new book on American presidents during the last four decades. Instead of revising portraits of men we recognize from old paintings, textbooks and wrinkled currency, Scheer gives us a study of the men we know from the televisions in our living rooms.
The book, delightfully titled, "Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton--and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush" provides a real "fair and balanced" examination of recent presidential politics. But it also provides an incisive critique of our selection process. "After decades," Scheer writes, "I came to the conclusion that the process endured in obtaining electoral power tends to be the controlling influence on the candidate's behavior once in office." It's a frightening thought, but in chapter after chapter, he illustrates this point and identifies a system that, "stupefies rather than educates."
As a veteran teacher of history, government and politics I have learned that there is something dangerously fictional about all American presidents. Ask most high school students (or their parents) about any of the presidents since Nixon and you will be struck by the shallowness and predictability of the responses. Unfortunately, most of the pre-university textbooks to which we subject these students do little other than reinforce the caricatures. Playing President facilitates a better understand of the complexity behind the sound bites and rescues some of our immediate past from myth.
Of course, "Playing" is the indispensable word in the book's title. The book documents six men playing president in the manner of children playing at being what they think they should be while being watched by relatives at a holiday dinner. Scheer's book offers disheartening evidence that "playing" at president has become more important than "being" president.
Readers are treated to reflective and penetrating portraits beginning with Richard Nixon. Painfully aware of his own awkwardness, but always thinking about policy. Nixon offers advice that would be useful today if W. would listen, "Periods of confrontation," Nixon said, "strengthen dictatorships, and periods of peace weaken them."
Carter is portrayed as consciously creating himself as a character in his own version of a Faulkner short story. His Playboy interview should be required re-reading simply for all of the commentary that outshines the famous lust in Carter's heart. In the 1976 essay, "Jimmy, We Hardly Know Y'all" Scheer paints a vivid picture of a complex American South uneasy about confronting its own history. When he asks Carter's mother about the history of an integrated communal farm not far from Carter's Plains, Miss Lillian snaps back, "Why do you want to bring that up? It's over with."
Ronald Reagan knew just how to turn his head toward the camera. He was good at playing. Scheer documents how Reagan came alive on stage, so that even when he is spouting complete nonsense his audience wants to believe him. Summing up this talent for illusion, Scheer reports that, "Reagan can be magical on the stump, because he can convince even a cynical observer that he is a highly moral, honest, and purposeful man... [and] that allows the audience to ignore serious gaps in his knowledge, his lackluster eight years as Governor, and the reality that his own family life has been quite disorderly....people want the image more than the truth."
He was a hard act to follow. His successor, George Herbert Walker Bush, is the impossibly maladroit player, uncomfortable and arrogant at the same time. Scheer's encounters with this first Bush are interesting to read and often enjoyably hostile. Consider this bizarre response to a simple question about the Pentagon Papers, "I told you," snapped Bush, "I don't have a judgment; I don't have - I don't remember all that ancient history." And then, pages later, at the interview's end, Scheer asks him to be more explicit in reflecting on a situation in the middle east. And again Bush responds with revealing and angry impatience, "No, I couldn't. I've given you that, and that's all I'll give you." This is fun stuff to read and it would certainly liven up a classroom.
Bill Clinton comes off as a natural actor, always very, very smart, but sometimes twisting a fact or two for convenience. In the middle of a long chat, Scheer asks him to point out the best example of the get-off-welfare program that the Arkansas Governor had been touting. Clinton tells him to check out "Project Success" in Forrest City, but when he gets there he finds no evidence of any real project - successful or not. The reader comes away from this section convinced of both Clinton's unrealized potential and his real accomplishments.
The last section on George W. Bush is different from the others, but that much is hinted at by the best part of the title. Partly this difference is because Scheer has never engaged W. in an extended interview, but partly it is because George W. Bush really is different from all the others. The section title: George W. Bush - Perpetual Adolescence seemed to say it well enough. However, after reading the many columns that follow the introductory essay this reader preferred the title: George W. Bush - Dangerous Adolescent.
This is a serious and important book, but it is also a delight to read. If, like me, you have read some of the material before, reading it again forces one to recognize how vital it is to have reporters willing to spend the time, to listen, to investigate and to write of complexity. The clich? is that journalism is the first draft of history has been amended by suggesting an obvious tension between getting it first and getting it right. But over the years some journalists have gotten both. "Playing President" demonstrates that Robert Scheer has been both first and right for decades.