Primary Colors
(1998)

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3.35/5
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This work is the barely fictionalized account of candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 via the character Southern Governor Jack Stanton. Joe Klein joined Newsweek as a political reporter and columnist during the 1992 US Presidential race, and followed then candidate Bill Clinton on the road. As such, Klein dutifully conveys the youthful exuberance for a new candidate, along with the sense of awe at his determination, drive, and intelligence. All along, he also displays the shocking lack of personal morals of a "natural" candidate for the office. Further, he shows the inner deal-making that everyone connected with the campaign makes to achieve the vision they started with, no matter how ugly the cheating, talented candidate gets on his road to the election. Klein tells the story from the 1st person perspective of a sophomorish campaign manager, Henry Burton, that just happens to be a grandson of a black civil rights leader. They join the Southern Governor at a talk given on adult education, in which Gov. Stanton cries as he tells the students how they were braver than his uncle--a World War II veteran that earned the Medal of Honor, but went home and never took a job because he was too embarrassed to tell anyone he was illiterate. We next find out this story is not true! Despite this, Burton decides to join the campaign, and works many of the standard issues--such as fighting off scurrilous attacks by opposing candidates, and captured and doctored cell phone conversations, etc. Burton walks into the campaign headquarters (a hotel suite) to find the Governor coming out of a bedroom not completely dressed, and a disheveled librarian they had just met at a school they had attended. Of course, Susan Stanton, the Governor's wife, is nowhere to be found. The team flies to another destination to meet up with Mrs. Stanton, as she has been campaigning for her husband among their party elite in that state. Burton is eventually introduced to Libby Holden, whose job is to defend the President by combating the attacks from all comers. She does so with ruthless abandon, but also with a strict moral code: There apparently is something noble about stopping the attacks of others, but it is almost reprehensible about digging up the dirt on others -- essentially attacking them first. We come to know that Gov. Stanton is a philanderer of extraordinary magnitude, but an inspired genius at politics. Unfortunately, this extends to sleeping with a 17-year-old babysitter, the librarian they just recently met, a long-term affair with another woman, and the list goes on.

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