September 18, 1989 12:00 PM

by Arthur Grace

As ABC-TV’s Sam Donaldson writes in a foreword to this book of 1988 presidential campaign photographs, “Political campaigns are now carefully staged for the picture media. They are scripted, choreographed, sanitized. Access to reality has been strictly limited.” It’s a tribute to Grace, once a TIME photographer and now part of Newsweek’s Washington bureau, that he so often got past that staging.

True, there is a scripted shot of Michael Dukakis sitting forlornly in his famous tank at a General Dynamics plant in Michigan and one of George Bush speaking with a huge American flag backdrop. But most of Grace’s photographs, which run from the early free-for-all days of the 1988 campaign to the Bush-Dukakis showdown, didn’t arise from formal “photo opportunities.” They display more provocative scenes, such as ex-Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt sitting quietly in a room in Des Moines in February, sipping from a glass and looking troubled, as if he were wondering whether it was all worth it. (Two weeks later he decided it wasn’t, and quit the Democratic primary race.)

ABC correspondent Jim Wooten provides the minimal text, describing Gary Hart, for instance, as “either an extraordinarily careless man or compulsively self-destructive” and Dan Quayle as “utterly incapable of saying what it was he wished to say, often producing pure gobbledy-gook, such as his memorable declaration that ‘there is nothing that a good defense cannot beat a better offense.’ ”

Anyone seeking a definitive history of recent presidential campaign photography should consult Spy magazine’s November 1988 issue. It included page after depressing page of otherwise respectable American men (and Geraldine Ferraro) wearing Indian headdresses, kissing strange babies, looking silly in hard hats, eating picnic food and otherwise exhibiting leadership ability.

But this book offers vivid documentation of a year’s worth of this kind of stooping to conquer, which was carried out on a level we are not likely to see again—at least not until 1992. (Brandeis/New England, $40; paper, $19.95)

You May Like