Politics is full of colorful figures, arcane rules, hyped-up campaigns, and a sense of anxiety that is simply unmatched in other endeavors. While many find the whole mess too complex or — somehow? — too boring, others revel in the gamesmanship of the endeavor.
Interestingly, we began by talking about one of his favorite political books, “What it Takes,” by Richard Ben Cramer.
The tome — as Cillizza put it a “doorstop-sized book about the 1988 presidential campaign” — is incredibly popular among today’s political set, much in the same way some cult movies catch on years later. As the title implies, Cramer’s book reveals “what it takes” to run for president — a topic that is still fascinating years later.
Cillizza also recounted the time he had the chance to meet Cramer, describing the pilgrimage he made to the Western Maryland home of the “eccentric, idiosyncratic” writer.
Our conversation covered Chris Matthews of MSNBC, a man we agreed was fascinating because of his love for the game. Even Bill Clinton made the discussion (“The Gospel According to the Fix” places him in Cillizza’s political “Hall of Fame,” as we talked about his incredible rise from a defeated governor — and the horribly unkempt facial (and cranial) hair of his staffers — to the White House and to his time today as an enormously popular ex-president.
We even talked a little about clearing up some misconceptions people have of modern politics. Among them is the idea that the GOP is the party of old white men. ”In truth,” Cillizza told me, “Republicans have more non-white faces who are rising stars than Democrats do.”
It was a fascinating visit.