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A Tell-All about Nixon’s Campaign Was the 1969 Version of ‘Fire and Fury’

January 8, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Joe McGinniss, author of The Selling of the President 1968 about Nixons campaign, photographed in 1993. (Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images)

In the opening days of 2018, the book Fire and Fury set the internet ablaze. Author Michael Wolff, whose journalistic methods have received criticism across the political spectrum, marketed his book as a tell-all about Trump’s campaign and administration. But long before Wolff, another writer caught the nation’s attention with his own salacious tell-all—this one about Richard Nixon.

Journalist Joe McGinniss was only in his mid-20s when he gained access to Nixon’s first presidential campaign, which he chronicled in his best-selling book, The Selling of the President 1968. Similarly to Fire and Fury, it was a very big deal when it came out. Yet according to David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism at Rutgers University, it may be a little difficult for modern readers to understand why.

That’s because the main “reveal” of McGinniss’ book was that the Nixon campaign consciously crafted an image of the candidate as warmer and more likeable in order to appeal to voters. This included emotionally resonant campaign ads in which Nixon didn’t actually say a lot, as well as an appearance on the hit variety show Laugh-In where he said, “Sock it to me?”

Joe McGinniss, author of The Selling of the President 1968 about Nixons campaign, photographed in 1993. (Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Today, using a media strategy is not news. It’s something that voters already assume about any campaign. “It’s hard to imagine that it came to a revelation to people,” says Greenberg, who is also the author of Republic of Spin. At the time, though, “it hadn’t necessarily occurred to people that there was that level of attention and sophistication.”

“The mere fact that you had Nixon’s media strategists so carefully planning and discussing how he should be presented, and how a question and answer forum should be staged, and who should be asking the questions—all that detail was revelatory,” Greenberg explains.

Before McGinniss’ book, it was understood that there were certain private, behind-the-scenes things that the press didn’t cover, such as the extramarital affairs of former presidents John F. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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