Richard Ben Cramer

by John Sides on January 8, 2013 · 3 comments

in Campaigns and elections,Obituary

Here is an obituary, his book What It Takes, his amazing Esquire piece on Ted Williams, and some reminiscences by reporters and peers.  I read What It Takes not long after it came out.  I must have been 18 or 19 years old.  I didn’t know then that I would become a political scientist or study campaigns, but perhaps the fact that I read that book at a relatively young age should have been a clue.

I pulled it off my bookshelf and opened it at random to p.505.  Cramer is talking about Michael Dukakis (ellipses in the original):

What a marvelous machine was Michael’s campaign.

“We try,” said the brilliant body man, Mitropolous, with a puckish smile (phyllo wouldn’t melt in his mouth) … “to play error-free ball.”

With Michael, it was more than try…more like compulsion.  It wasn’t just speeches (of course, he had to work over the speeches)…and not just his interview with every employee (the Dukakis campaign would spent five hundred dollars to fly the new receptionist for Washington to the State House, so Michael could tell her how to answer phones correctly)…Michael wanted to see, to edit, every press release.  He wanted to see every questionnaire sent back to newspapers and interest groups.  He wanted to see the thank-you notes.

Alas, that left little time to take care of business.

What business?

State business!

That was the summer, 1987, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts opened Route 25. It was a fine road, seven miles of clean new concrete to take an hour off the commute from the Boston suburbs to the Cape.  Michael meant to go to the opening.  He built the road.

Sasso said, “Mike, you’re not governor anymore.  You’re running for President.”

Michael said he wanted to go.

“Mike! Who gives a shit whether Route 25 is open?”

Governor Dukakis opened Route 25.


Damn, what a great book.  RIP, Richard Ben Cramer.

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