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Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 72 by Hunter S Thompson (Books 2020, 26)

I thought it might be interesting, in this year of a US presidential election, to reread this account of a different reelection campaign of a terrible president.

In this one, of course, the president — Nixon — was successfully reelected. And it was only in his second term that he was impeached — or nearly so. He resigned first, and Ford, his veep, now president, pardoned him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Trump and Pence try the same sort of thing in the next couple of months.

This book doesn’t get as far as Nixon’s resignation. Thompson followed the Democratic campaign, and then George McGovern’s campaign once he got the nomination, as part of the press pack. He was National Affairs Editor for Rolling Stone at the time. A title and role that he created.

So this is essentially a fix-up of his columns, with some edits, and the odd footnote adding information that wasn’t available at the time. It’s classic HST, of course, with not quite as many illegal drugs as in some of his works.

The most intriguing thing in the whole book for me was this quote from p189:

For almost a year now, he [Pat Cadell] has been George McGovern’s official numbers wizard. Cadell and his Cambridge Research Associates have been working the streets and suburban neighborhoods in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts for McGovern, then coming back to headquarters on election nite [sic] and calling the results almost down to the percentage point…

Emphasis mine, ellipsis his. I’m just struck by the name of the organisation, and the fact that they’re doing a not dissimilar thing to Cambridge Analytica — in terms of analysis, if not manipulation — in a pre-computer age. There doesn’t seem to be any connections between the two organisations.

On the very next page we have this:

Even reading and watching all the news, there is no way to know the truth — except to be there.

Which resonates profoundly in today’s ‘fake news’ world.

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