||Even if you fervently disagree with the party bias they tout proudly and often, you probably concur that Democratic political consultants Paul Begala and James Carville know what it takes to craft a winning strategy. In Buck Up, Suck Up... and Come Back When You Foul Up, the two lay out 12 of the rules they developed while separately and jointly masterminding some of the hottest political races in recent years. And with entertaining and enlightening behind-the-scenes anecdotes drawn from both effective and futile experiences along the campaign trail--most notably their work with Bill Clinton during his two presidential terms--Begala and Carville present a practical course that can be followed in business as well as politics. "If the audience you're trying to reach is smaller than the one hundred million voters we spend our time trying to reach," they write, "we believe these lessons are even more important because your target audience is even more sophisticated, even more interested, even more up-to-the-minute."
At first glance, some rules appear blatantly obvious ("Don't Quit," "Turn Weakness into Strength") and some intentionally controversial ("Kiss Ass," "Know How to Recover When You Really Screw Up"). But, in their explanations, the relevancy and potential application of each consistently comes through. For example, in "Frame the Debate," they note how Ronald Reagan controlled the agenda in his 1980 challenge to Jimmy Carter through early attacks on the incumbent's most unpopular policies--showing precisely why "military strategists know that most battles are won ... by the side that determines where, when and how an engagement is fought." Likewise, in "Know How to Communicate," they bring five tips (tell a story, be brief, be emotional, be unique, be relevant) to life by explaining how their use aided campaigns for Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, and others. The result, while perhaps too profane for some and definitely not Republican-friendly despite its grudging acknowledgment of a few masterful GOP performances, is nonetheless uniformly readable and genuinely practical. --Howard Rothman