The Selling of the President

Written during Nixon’s 1968 White House run, this was the first book to take an unvarnished look at the dirty game of campaign politics. Forty-five years later, it’s as relevant as ever.

  1. Introduction to the 2012 Edition

    There have been ten presidential elections since the 1968 contest between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey that is the subject of this book.

    In 1968, the hiring of advertising agencies to develop campaign strategy was a deep, closely held secret. When I first learned, by sheer accident, that Humphrey had hired Doyle Dane Bernbach—an archetype of the agency in Mad Men—my attempts to gain access were quickly rebuffed. Executive vice president Ed Russell said, “Do you think we’re crazy? Nobody is supposed to know about this stuff.”

    At Fuller & Smith & Ross, on Fifth Avenue, Harry Treleaven, borrowed from J. Walter Thompson for the Nixon campaign, was far more congenial. After he received approval from Nixon adviser Leonard Garment, who didn’t see what harm I could do because I was just a naive kid from Philadelphia of whom no one in the big leagues of journalism had ever heard, Treleaven welcomed me to the team and kept all doors open for me throughout the campaign.

    There was one dicey moment when TV wunderkind Roger Ailes came aboard. He was fresh from the successfully syndicated Mike Douglas Show, which taped in Philadelphia, where I worked as a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Roger would become a close friend and, in fact, despite the political abyss that separates us, remains one of my closest friends today.

    Arriving at the Fuller & Smith & Ross offices for his first planning session with Treleaven, Roger—a reader of my locally infamous liberal and antiwar colu...

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