How Gorbachev Saved Reagan . . .Issue: Spring 1991
Sidney Blumenthal, Pledging Allegiance--The Last Campaign of the Cold War (New York: HarperCollins, 1990). 386 pp., $22.95.
In mid-1989 a senior editor at a major New York publishing house was asked about the relative merits of several upcoming volumes on the 1988 U.S. presidential election. His firm, which had published political chronicles in the past, declined to bid on books about the Bush-Dukakis contest. "Television coverage has made the Teddy White approach to these campaigns obsolete," he remarked. "These days, to sell an election book, you really need a gimmick."
It is indeed hard to imagine today's publishing barons, or journalism students, buying into Theodore White's Making of the President series, with its careful reportage, modest prose, and quaint respect for American political institutions. For some time, would-be campaign historians have sought other pegs--or gimmicks--on which to hang their tales. To the Nightline generation, even Joe McGinniss' treatment of Republican "handlers" in the 1968 Nixon-Humphrey race or Timothy Crouse's angle on press coverage of the 1972 election may seem archaic. With Pledging Allegiance, Sidney Blumenthal hopes to revive the genre by wedding electoral politics to another large theme--in this case, no less than the history of the Cold War itself.