In Presidential Intentions,(Amazon) Doug Wood, one of the nation's leading advertising lawyers, has written a political thriller and much more. Wood, who is also the author of an authoritative text on advertising industry law, has crafted a meditation on the art of politics, and the difficult life compromises that strain family relationships. In particular, he focuses on what happens to a candidate as he (or in this case she) is moved along the path to a run for the Presidency.
As the book opens, the protagonist , Samantha Harrison, is the Republican candidate for president in 2016, running against - you guessed it- Hillary Clinton. Harrison’s story is told in flashbacks, including her time as a Stanford student who marries her economics professor who is twice her age, and to her achieving both an MBA and a law degree. She moves to Washington DC, entering and abruptly leaving a high- powered law firm under unusual circumstances, but without sacrificing her integrity. Later, she becomes a tough Virginia prosecutor, and then remakes her career as a first as a congresswoman, and then governor of Virginia. All this occurs at the same time as she is raising two children while her husband, Benjamin, who deplores Washington politics, lives with the children away from the District.
Wood is eloquent on family life but he also zeroes in on the intricacies of crime (there’s a trial of a sex offender going on), and international terror threats (in the shape of a threatened Al Qaeda nuclear attack.) He weaves Harrison into the story, and along the way brings the reader into the Oval Office and the counter-intelligence process.
His expertise in all things Washington and legal, and his panoramic view of the geo-political scene, make this an exciting read. But the heart of the book goes beyond the admittedly page -turning text. It lies instead in the debate and tensions between Samantha, as a prosecutor, politician and public servant and those persons standing for mere expediency and political clout. Samantha’s character is etched in speeches and epigrams in which she reveals her passionate convictions as a conservative with strong human values. It's all here -- from abortion to capital punishment to entitlement programs to the current issues befuddling the Obama administration. And it makes for a most refreshing point of view, harking back to the days when politics was less of a blood sport and more the arena for something more philosophical and public spirited.
Presidential Intentions is a sharply-edged portrait of a candidate and a country deeply divided from within the family and throughout the political arena at large. It’s a cri de coeur for a more honest version of a polity befitting American ideals. Strongly recommended.