Title Bit Player
Subtitle My Life with Presidents and Ideas
Author Stephen Hess
ISBN 9780815736998
List price USD 25.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Hardbound
No of pages 176
Book size 153 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2018
Original publisher Brookings Institution Press
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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“You’ve seen his name in stories about the White House and media, and on the spines of many influential books. And now Stephen Hess the well-known Brookings Institution senior fellow emeritus, has finally written his story. But Bit Player: My Life with Presidents and Ideas vastly underplays the role of the political guru who worked with five presidents and has been the go-to expert for hundreds of reporters.”

—Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner


“For decades Hess has been a go-to scholar for all things related to the U.S. presidency. His political erudition, historical knowledge, and sound judgment are legendary in official Washington. Bit Player is Hess’s first-rate memoir of his years as the Sage of the Brookings Institution. Highly recommended!”

—Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and professor of history at Rice University; author of Cronkite


“My favorite political question is ‘Who was in the room?’ Since the early years of the Cold War, ‘Steve Hess’ was a good bet for the answer. If his humility has made him an anachronism, this gold mine of a memoir will take him to his much-deserved role in history’s spotlight.”

—Chris Matthews, host, Hardball with Chris Matthews


“Steve Hess has been anything but a ‘bit player’ in American politics over the past 60 years. From Ike to Nixon to Ford to, yes, Jimmy Carter and on to Reagan—Steve was a key player behind the scenes. During that time and ever since, he has been an influential voice for what our politics used to be—and could be again. I met Steve when I was a student at Harvard and he has always been great company. Read Bit Player and you will agree, as he takes you along for a rollicking ride through the twists and turns of Washington over the years.”

—Chris Wallace, host, Fox News Sunday


“There’s a surprise on every page of this delightful tale of a man who’s managed to be at the center of the action in Washington from Eisenhower’s time until now. Steve Hess has led an astonishing life that provides texture and background to the main turning points in the modern American story, and underscores why what happens in Washington matters.”

—Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor, PBS NewsHour


An insightful, often humorous look at how Washington works, or doesn’t

The title “Bit Player” perfectly reflects Stephen Hess’s long and distinguished career as a Washington insider. As a 25-year-old, recently discharged Army private in 1958, he suddenly found himself as part of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speechwriting team that ultimately helped draft the famed “Farewell Address” warning of the influence of the “military industrial complex.” Then over the next two decades, Hess played bit roles aiding Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan—along the way observing up-close those presidents and many other senior political leaders. During his subsequent four-and-a-half decades at the Brookings Institution, Hess was well-positioned to monitor and comment on the achievements and failures of successive administrations.

This memoir by a certified member of Washington’s old-guard establishment is rich with insight into contemporary American democracy, poignant in its reflections of avoidable missteps by even the best and most experienced leaders, and consistently good-humored in the author’s self-awareness of his own role behind the scenes of political power.

Now in his mid-eighties, still involved at Brookings as a “senior fellow emeritus,” Hess uses this memoir to look back at what he describes as concentric circles of research, travel, advising, writing, and teaching. But more than just a memoir, Bit Player offers deeply informed commentary on the major political actors and seminal events in the nation’s capital over the past six decades.

One of the foremost authorities on media and government in the United States, Stephen Hess is a senior fellow emeritus in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He first joined Brookings in 1972 and was distinguished research professor of media and public affairs at the George Washington University (2004–2009). Hess served on White House staff during the Eisenhower and Nixon presidencies and as advisor to Presidents Ford and Carter.





First Words • Getting There • First Politics, 1952 • Enter Professor Moos • Drafted • The Eisenhower White House, 1958–61 • The Staff • The 1960 Election • Speeches • Remembering Ike


Interregnum, 1961 51 • The Harlow Miracle • Working for Richard Nixon • California, 1962 • November 22, 1963 • A Bookmaker • Lincoln Week, 1966 • Harvard, 1967–68 • Miami Beach, 1968 • The 1968 Campaign and Spiro T. Agnew • Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs • To HEW • The White House Conference on Children • A White House Conference on Youth • What Next? • Leave-Taking, 1972


Settling In • Governmental Studies • Things to Do • Watergate • Talk • The Presidency Book • Newswork • Transitions

Beth’s List: A Summing Up

September 11, 2001 • Des Moines, Iowa, 1976 • Kansas City, 1976 • United Nations, 1974 and 1976 • Make-A-Wish Foundation • Campaign Etiquette • Political Cartoons • The Notorious RBG • Hyman Rickover, “Father of the Nuclear Navy,” 1954 • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 1977 • Richard Avedon, 1990 • Oliver Stone, 1994 • Former British Prime Minister John Major, 2009 • Circles within Circles




About the Author:

Stephen Hess, one of the foremost authorities on media and government in the United States, is a senior fellow emeritus in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He first joined Brookings in 1972 and was distinguished research professor of media and public affairs at the George Washington University (2004–2009). Served on White House staff during Eisenhower and Nixon presidencies and as advisor to Presidents Ford and Carter.

At different points in his career, Hess has concurrently served as a Fellow in the Faculty of Government at Harvard University (1979-82), and as U.S. Representative to the United Nations General Assembly (1976) and the UNESCO General Conference (1974). Prior to joining Brookings, he was the National Chairman of the White House Conference on Children and Youth from 1969 to 1971, and was the Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs in 1969. He has participated in many U.S. cultural missions around the world, and has worked in key consultant and adviser capacities for the Russell Sage Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Government. He has lectured at over fifty colleges and universities.

Hess has received many prestigious honors, including mention in Who’s Who in America, Contemporary Authors and Who’s Who in American Politics. He was on Time magazine’s list of “200 Young American Leaders” in 1974, and cited as the New York Times “Man in the News” on December 14, 1970. Hess is a member of the National Academy of Public Administration and the Senior Advisory Committee of the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

A Chinese edition of International News & Foreign Correspondents was published in 2010.  Also in 2010, Transaction published American Political Cartoons: The Evolution of a National Identity, 1754-2010 with Sandy Northrop, and Library Journal awarded “Best Book, 2008” to What Do We Do Now? A Workbook for the President-Elect.  Other books by Hess include Through Their Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in the United States, published in 2005; The Media and the War on Terrorism, with Marvin Kalb (2003), and Organizing the Presidency (3rd edition, 2002). His book, The Little Book of Campaign Etiquette (2000), won the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism. In 1996 he authored a trilogy of books on the presidency, the press, and foreign news coverage; International News & Foreign Correspondents; News & Newsmaking; and Presidents & the Presidency. Some of his better known books include: The Presidential Campaign; The Ultimate Insiders: U.S. Senators in the National Media, winner of the Outstanding Academic Book award from the American Library Association; The Washington Reporters, winner of the Lowell Mellett Award for Improving Journalism through Critical Evaluation; and Nixon: a Political Portrait, with Earl Mazo, which now has 30 foreign editions. In the fall of 2012, he published the book Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012.

The Brookings Press published Hess’ books The Professor and the President” in  2014 and America’s Political Dynasties from  Adams to Clinton in 2016.

Target Audience:

This book is intended for students and academicians of Political Science.


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