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Download Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain Audiobook, by Jim Lehrer Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (250 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jim Lehrer Narrator: Jim Lehrer Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2011 ISBN: 9780307878458
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“In his quiet but intense way, Jim Lehrer earns the trust of the major political players of our time,” notes Barbara Walters. “He explains and exposes their hopes and dreams, their strengths and failures as they try to put their best foot forward.”

From the man widely hailed as “the Dean of Moderators” comes a lively and revealing book that pulls back the curtain on more than forty years of televised political debate in America. A veteran newsman who has presided over eleven presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jim Lehrer gives readers a ringside seat for some of the epic political battles of our time, shedding light on all of the critical turning points and rhetorical faux pas that helped determine the outcome of America’s presidential elections—and with them the course of history. Drawing on his own experiences as “the man in the middle seat,” in-depth interviews with the candidates and his fellow moderators, and transcripts of key exchanges, Lehrer isolates and illuminates what he calls the “Major Moments” and “killer questions” that defined the debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain.

Oftentimes these moments involve the candidates themselves and are seared into our collective political memory. Michael Dukakis stumbles badly over a question about the death penalty. Dan Quayle compares himself to John F. Kennedy once too often. Barack Obama and John McCain barely make eye contact over the course of a ninety-minute discussion. At other times, the debate moderators themselves become part of the story—and Lehrer is there to give us a backstage look at the drama. Peter Jennings suggests surprising the candidates by suspending the carefully negotiated rules minutes before the 1988 presidential debate—to the consternation of his fellow panelists. Lehrer himself weathers a firestorm of criticism over his performance as moderator of the 2000 Bush-Gore debate. And then there are the excruciating moments when audio lines go dead and TelePrompTers stay dark just seconds before going on the air live in front of a worldwide television audience of millions.

Asked to sum up his experience as a participant in high-level televised debates, President George H. W. Bush memorably likened them to an evening in “tension city.” In Jim Lehrer’s absorbing insider account, we find out that truer words were never spoken.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Randi | 2/3/2014

    " I felt like I was sitting on a covered porch, drinking lemonade as Jim Lehrer told me stories about presidential debates. This was a very quick, engaging read, but I do wish it had a little more depth. The journalist in me loved learning about how Lehrer prepped for the debates and his candid look at what went well (and not so well). A fun read in an election year. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 James | 1/29/2014

    " Kind of a fluff read, but some interesting stuff on the behind-the-scenes of the televised debates. Read it for a class on Elections and the Media. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jo | 1/8/2014

    " A fast, easy read. I bought an autographed copy for my Dad for Christmas (which is why this review won't go up on Facebook as Dad lurks there on occasion), which I expect he will enjoy immensely as he is a long time fan of Jim Lehrer. For me, it was more lightweight than I expected: more anecdote than analysis (until the end section on how to be a good moderator). It was basically an insider's retrospective on about 40 years of the water cooler moments -- the moments people were talking about the next day -- from the four decades of presidential and vice-presidential debates, whether or not Lehrer moderated it. He interviewed most of the Presidents and most of the journalists present for those moments for their take on them as well. There is a fair amount of humor through out the book, and quite a few tributes to his wife. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jamie | 1/7/2014

    " I enjoyed this book until close to the end. The end seemed to be more about Lehrer and not on debates and it seemed to me that it lost its focus. Very interesting facts and anecdotes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 12/11/2013

    " This book is a bit of a niche book, I will admit. If you like Presidential politics and debates though you will likely find this history of debates by Jim Lehrer interesting. He goes back to the first televised debates of Kennedy and Nixon and covers them up to the 2008 election. Lehrer has been a moderator for many of these debates and he shares his first hand experiences, both good and bad, of the debates and the debaters. He wraps up the book talking about some of the other functions he has moderated including a gathering of Bush 41, Thatcher, Mitterand, Gorbachev, and Mulroney post Soviet Union and the discussion these leaders had about the changes of East and West at the end of the Cold War. This book may not be for everyone but it was a good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 10/23/2013

    " very enjoyable book. if you're a fan of presidential debates this is a great read. Lehrer has always been a fair and balanced journalist. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clay | 10/20/2013

    " From the pre-eminant US presidential debate moderator, a crisp look behind the scenes. Despite massive preparation going into the debates, much hinges on the unexpected: a chance glance, tone of voice, or makeup malfunction. In some debates, radio listeners get a completely different impression on a candidates performance than television viewers. The title is from the words of Bush 1: "Ugly, I don't like 'em...Those big time things...it was tension city, Jim" "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Phillip | 10/17/2013

    " This was a quick read (via Kindle). I was familiar with most of the material covered, but I did enjoy some of the author's stories about the background events to some of the debates. I think the most interesting part of the book was reading about some of the debate reflections from the past presidential and vice presidential candidates. For anyone interested in politics, it's certainly an interesting quick read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nathaniel Smith | 10/5/2013

    " I think this was a good book even though I'm not a huge fan of politics. It was interesting to ,e how the debates can weigh so heavily on elections at some points, and not as much in others. This was for a class but I think I had success in understanding it and analyzing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 10/1/2013

    " if you watch presidential debates and like politics, you'll like this book.. :) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bethia | 9/20/2013

    " After reading Lehrer's insider account of the presidential and vice presidential debates I am looking forward to the Obama vs. Romney debates all the more. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dianna | 9/1/2013

    " I would have preferred a little more about the candidates and a little less about Jim Lehrer. While I am a fan of Lehrer's, I found his tone to be somewhat sanctimonious. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt Ockmond | 6/23/2013

    " Lehrer's writing is compelling, and the book gives real incite in the goings on behind the different televised presidential debates. It's a short read too. I finished it very quickly because I found it so interesting. I think people of any political opinion would enjoy it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terri Jacobson | 6/3/2013

    " A revealing look at the political process as demonstrated by the last 40 years of presidential debates in America. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alicia Brooks | 12/26/2012

    " For a book called "Tension City", there was no tension at all. I didn't even feel like I learned anything new about the debates. Very dry reading. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marie | 9/8/2012

    " I did not like the commentary on the debates and did not finish the book. I will try and get information on these speeches in another way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 6/28/2012

    " This was a really interesting look at both the evolution of presidential debates as well as the role of the moderator. I really enjoyed reading Lehrer's anecdotes and how he prepared for something as pressure packed as the debates. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Denise Morse | 3/6/2012

    " Not a fan of the writing style but had interesting information and tidbits. I am surprised that it completely ignored the Palin debates "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brett Hutchins | 2/4/2012

    " Some interesting bits, but suffers because of what the modern debate is - a visual spectacle. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hadrian | 1/12/2012

    " Retelling of Presidential debates by one of their most famous moderators. Good stories and anecdotes. It's interesting comparing debates past to the ones now. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 SA | 12/4/2011

    " A collection of anecdotes and memories from one of the titans of video journalism. It was very odd having read this book and then watching Lehrer's weak performance in the subsequent 2012 debate; having had the inside look, such as it was, made it all the more surprising and disappointing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat Jorgenson Waterchilde | 10/8/2011

    " Very easy read and enjoyable alot not outstanding. Jim Lehrer takes a personal journey through his role as moderator of several presidental/vice-presidental debates. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 10/2/2011

    " Great book... great lessons... great history "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Adrian | 10/1/2011

    " Retelling of Presidential debates by one of their most famous moderators. Good stories and anecdotes. It's interesting comparing debates past to the ones now. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 9/27/2011

    " This was a really interesting look at both the evolution of presidential debates as well as the role of the moderator. I really enjoyed reading Lehrer's anecdotes and how he prepared for something as pressure packed as the debates. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeff | 9/24/2011

    " Enjoyed it, although it was more anecdotal than substantive. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alicia | 9/20/2011

    " For a book called "Tension City", there was no tension at all. I didn't even feel like I learned anything new about the debates. Very dry reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mr. Steve | 5/29/2011

    " Really interesting behind the scenes book of presidential debates. There is so much prep work that goes into every part of a debate. Lehrer's stories were not as in depth as I might have liked but they touched upon some enjoyable tidbits. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 5/15/2011

    " Will really only interest those who love politics and Presidential debates. The reflection by some of the candidates of their performances is interesting. And Lehrer's own experiences remind us how easy he made it look when it wasn't! "

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