cover image FALLING UP: How a Redneck Helped Invent Political Consulting

FALLING UP: How a Redneck Helped Invent Political Consulting

Raymond D. Strother, . . Louisiana State Univ., $29.95 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-2856-5

Strother was one of the first modern political consultants: he started driving Louisiana candidates and eventually specialized in precisely crafted radio and TV ads. His memoir is filled with wild and woolly stories in which bordello-owning sheriffs and country music bands are a regular fixture on the campaign trail. It also delves into the highly successful period in the early 1980s when a run of victorious Democratic senatorial campaigns culminated in Strother joining Gary Hart's frenetic, and doomed, 1984 presidential run. (There's also a suggestion that he might have prevented the Donna Rice incident.) He gave James Carville one of his first political jobs and crossed paths several times with Dick Morris, whose significance as a consultant he admits despite his conviction that the man represents "everything that has gone wrong with American politics." Bill Clinton also comes under fire; Strother accuses him of "adding my body to those he climbed over to reach the White House" by using his services for several Arkansas campaigns, then dumping him for flashier competitors. The accusation is typical of the book's unblinkered view; after publishing a thinly disguised roman à clef, Cottonwood, in the 1990s, Strother holds nothing back this time. He gives full vent to his anger over prejudice against his Southern background, his disgust with the corruption of Louisiana politics and his "Darwinist, ferocious" approach to his profession. Although Strother's political prestige would be enough to guarantee his memoir's importance, his unflinching recollections raise the book to a even higher level of significance. (Apr.)