Oct 15 2018

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The Selling of the President 1968 Non-Fiction Text Review One

Posted at 2:31 PM under Assignments

The book was about the 1968 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon. It started on October 21st but then goes back to introduce the main characters and most important people behind the scenes, which were Harry Treleaven, Len Garment, and Frank Shakespeare. Most of the people are entering in and out of the story some stay in like Roger Ailes and Gene Jones. After introducing them, then it goes to the beginning of the 1968 presidential election. It discusses the ups and downs in a political campaign and how anything can change. The overall, ongoing subject is Richard Nixon’s dislike of television and how hard it is for him to adapt. Marketing him will be the biggest challenge his campaign has to face.

The struggle for Nixon to even seem likable and more himself is enormous in the campaign. He gives the impression that he’s unexciting, dull, an ass, and someone that is not ‘up’ in the current state and society of the United States of America. There is also the problem that Nixon is trying too hard to get as many Humphrey votes as possible. He doesn’t understand why people don’t want to vote for him. The disconnect between the old and new seems very clear when Nixon’s friends come into the campaign and try to take over and the campaign people that have been there since day one have to move aside for his friends. All of this goes on the campaign season is winding down to Election Day.

The author is this book is Joe McGinniss. He rose up in fame because of this book and changed how political writing is done, according to a statement Roger Ailes made in the Associated Press in 2014. McGinniss wrote more non-fiction books later on including Fatal Vision, Cruel Doubt, Blind Faith, Going to the Extremes, and The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. McGinniss was not a political reporter at the time he wrote the book. McGinniss was a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer when he received access to the Nixon campaign. He got the idea to write the book one day by chance when someone on the train boasted about getting the Humphrey deal and making him look better than President Lincoln in six weeks. He contacted the Humphrey first, but they turned him down. So, he reached to the Nixon campaign, and they said yes to getting access to behind the scenes of a presidential campaign.

He wrote the book to give everyone a view that they haven’t seen before, what it is like to be a part of a presidential campaign in 1968. He described the “new” way to market Richard Nixon in a time where old school was out, and the new school was in for politics. Nixon had to change his ways to win the election, and that itself is a historical piece of history that not a lot of people knew what was happening. McGinniss accomplished writing about the 1968 Nixon presidential campaign and the journey of ups and downs and the changes they went through from the beginning to the end, where Nixon won.

Joe McGinniss gave an excellent insight into the advertising and marketing departments of the Nixon campaign. He was able to talk to the Garment, Ailes, Treleaven, and Shakespeare and get into their “circle” and know what they were thinking when they were planning what to do next in their conquest of helping Nixon win the presidency. He used mostly used reporting what’s going on, observing and participating with the people involved in the campaign to write this book because he was on the road with the campaign. He also did some interview, but they were only short conversations with Ailes, Treleaven, Shakespeare, and Garment.

The most important thing that McGinniss wanted to accomplish writing this book is that there is growth in Nixon to use television to his advantage to help win the election. He also discussed how anything could change for a political campaign in a moment or even a day. It seems like he wanted to make a book about his time with the campaign but it turned out to be about the four prominent characters’, Shakespeare, Garment, Ailes, and Treleaven, respective parts in the campaign.

McGinniss is mostly objective observations throughout the entire book, except for the conversations he has with the main characters. He is on a journey of a lifetime that changed the course of American history and American political history. He is not involved in the story to the point where you think that these conversations were recorded for the book and that the events were almost filmed to be written down. He is very good at taking himself out unless someone from the campaign talks to him. Once someone like Garment has discussions with McGinniss, then he is involved in the story but not that much.

He put an appendix section in the book to prove to the readers that he is using credible information in the book. In the appendix section, there are notes from the Nixon Advertising by Harry Treleaven, extracts from Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan, and an analysis by William Gavin. McGinniss also used memorandums by Ray Price, Len Garment, and William Gavin. He also used an article from Harry Treleaven about why Nixon should use magazine advertising in the New Hampshire Primary.

He uses an outline of strategy from Patrick Buchanan, Television advertising notes in New Hampshire and notes for Oregon RNFP advertising by Treleaven. McGinniss also used notes for recruiting panels for the question and answer tapings by Fuller and Smith and Ross office memorandum, notes on NFP advertising phase one and on Nixon advertising after September first by Treleaven, and seven different scripts written by E.S.J. Productions, Inc.

My reactions to reading this book are that if you’re a political science major, someone who likes politics, or someone that loves history and wants to know the background and insights of a historical event, then this book is for you. The book is long and tedious just like a presidential campaign. It was tough to read this book and not get easily bored to death by it. Some parts to go on forever and other parts seemed to go fast like a snap of your fingers. The further in you read, the more bored or intrigued you are, depending on who’s reading the book.

The book is very racist and sexist and was written in a time where this was unfortunately alright to say and write in a non-fiction text book. The word “negro” was used a lot and the “n” with the double “g” and ended with an “r” was used only once in the entire book. When Nixon was doing the panel shows, he had to have at least one “negro” on the panel to give a diversity look to make it seem like “everyone” is included. Beautiful women were called broads by men when they were talking about them.

I didn’t feel very comfortable when reading those parts in the book. It made me see that things have indeed changed since the 1968 presidential campaign. Women and minorities are treated better now than in 1968, but not where the country needs it to be. Presidential campaigns were male-dominated, and the women were used as a prop or as “Barbie dolls.” This book made me appreciate what the social and political world of the United States and that we have a right to say and speak up for things that we believe in that need to change.

I wouldn’t reread this book for a very long time. I’m just glad to have this book read and done. The boredom of the book made it hard for me to understand. It was written in a way that the reader can picture him/herself being a part of the campaign. For those who don’t like politics, this is not a book for you to read. For those who love politics or history and like discussing politics, then this book is for you to read. This book gives deep insight on the makings and conflicts inside of a presidential election, especially one that changed the course of history for the United States. Even if you’re not someone who likes politics, Nixon is a fascinating yet dull person to talk about and reading this book showed me how many people it took to make Nixon look good on television and advertising. The book is a journey back to a critical time in history.

One response so far

One Response to “The Selling of the President 1968 Non-Fiction Text Review One”

  1. fuglsangon 26 Oct 2018 at 9:09 AM 1

    Until the end I had the impression you liked the book, Reilly. Most of your comments were positive, and it seemed to meet your requirements for political reporting. I’m glad you stuck it out to the end.