Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater

John Brady, Author, J. Bell, Editor Da Capo Press $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-201-62733-6
An equally apt title for this would be Anatomy of a Politico, for in reading this life of the man who made negative campaigning a household word, introduced the concept of the permanent campaign and is credited with helping Bush beat Dukakis in 1988 with the Willy Horton issue (about a pardoned recidivist), one senses that Atwater lived for little else than politics. While claiming that no one knew Atwater well, Brady (The Craft of Interviewing) fleshes out the life of South Carolina-born Harvey Leroy (Lee) Atwater with pertinent aspects of his upbringing, marriage and life in politics. He details the rise of Atwater from greenhorn to Beltway insider, where he became chairman of the Republican National Committee, ""the first professional political consultant to head either political party."" A strength of Brady's presentation is that he lets readers decide what they think of his protagonist, by whom he seems fascinated, though not to the point of losing his objectivity. Although there's more dope here than some might wish, a full-bodied view emerges of the man whom brain cancer struck down at age 40 in 1991, when he was near the height of his powers. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/02/1996
Release date: 12/01/1996
Genre: Nonfiction
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