Former Rutherford resident Douglas Wood pens ‘Presidential Intentions’ about his vision of a female Republican presidential candidate
Published 10/2/14 by NorthJersey.com
BY KELLY NICHOLAIDES
If the first female presidential candidate was a Republican, author and formerlongtime Rutherford resident Douglas Wood would like her to be someone like “Samantha Harrison” – a candidate that would run against Hillary Clinton.
Wood recently penned “Presidential Intentions,” a fictional account of an overachiever who sets out to become the first female president of the United States. Pitting his protagonist against another female candidate in order to concentrate on character and individual philosophies, Wood takes a different perspective on the “first woman president” eventuality. Although there is little interaction between Harrison and Clinton in the book, there is a debate between the two women.
Specializing in corporate and advertising law, Wood knows the intricacies and frustrations of Washington politics, aiding in his publishing a political thriller.
“It’s given me a perspective on how short-term compromise, even at the expense of longer range issues, is how progress is made – one small step at a time,” Wood says.
During the Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton administrations, Wood says he saw both presidents masterfully deal with strong opponents, and avoid extremes. Reagan dealt with Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neill. Clinton dealt with Newt Gingrich.
“Both Presidents made great strides and understood that concessions were the most progressive way of accomplishing their objectives. Both balanced the budget and both, despite their own failings and peccadilloes, made true, measurable progress,” Wood says. “If one is honest with himself, regardless of political persuasion, hemust admit we’re much better off with presidents like Reagan and Clinton than we are with presidents who are strident and beholden to the extreme wings of their respective parties.”
In “Presidential Intentions,” Harrison is a complex, often conflicted politician who aims to become commander-in-chief. With her devoted husband Ben backing her, Harrison works with determined campaign manager Zachary Watts, who has questionable ethics, as her personal life begins to unravel. Her home life crumbles as she must make choices about what she’s willing to lose in order to win the presidency. Her choices ultimately determine who’s standing beside her in the end. How Harrison works for the “common good,” protects her views, yet tries to conform to her political party’s platform is tricky and dramatic.
“It is a unique time in our history when the possibility of a woman president is imminent – whether it be Hillary Clinton or a ‘Samantha Harrison,’ somewhere in the political food chain who is not yet experiencing a press frenzy that makes her a household name,” Wood reflects. “The timing could not be better than to pit two women against one another – one real, one fictional – with distinctly different philosophies and present the issues in stark contrast with one another, absent the gender issue as a central contrast. The idea of inventing a story about who andwhere Samantha Harrison might be, and what professional and personal boundaries she will have to leap to gain the favor of her peers and her own party, is the journey of the imagination I wanted to take readers on.”
The biggest challenge was melding reality and fiction to create a plausible story. “That requires a lot of research and fact checking. Intertwining Samantha Harrison’s life and career with real politicians and events was a challenge,” Wood says. “Another challenge was creating a candidate like Samantha Harrison when there is no Republican woman who immediately fits her mold. I wanted to avoid anyone thinking that Samantha Harrison is the alter ego of some existing Republican candidate. She is not.”
After Hillary Clinton became a viable presidential candidate, Wood thought the time was right to write “Presidential Intentions.” “It’s a fictional scenario, yes, but one that readers can imagine much easier than they did before Hillary ran for office in 2008,” Wood says. Wood used Amazon’s CreateSpace as his publisher, after researching self-publishing for his trade book, “Please Be Ad-Vised.” He kept creative control, and took suggestions, finding the editing process to be different than for that of his non-fiction titles.
“Keeping focus on the main characters and not getting lost outside the story line was the biggest editing challenge. The editing process also gave me an opportunity to hone my writing skills in a manner that didn’t make me sound like a lawyer,” Wood says. A fan of Scott Turow and John Grisham, Wood believes their style of writing makes legal issues interesting, understandable, and entertaining.
Themes and dilemmas he explores in “Presidential Intentions” include trying to cover Harrison’s entire life. “It’s a novel that spans decades of her life. That was necessary to make her believable, and to intertwine her evolution from an ideological teenager to a pragmatist who learned how to deal with political realities through compromise,” Wood says. “Those compromises and the sacrifices she had to make – while holding on to her core principles – was the core dilemma I tried to create for her. The question for readers is whether Samantha Harrison succeeded in
Given all the corporate influence involved with political power, Wood believes it’s possible to aspire to the highest office without compromising one’s character and values. “I’m still not sure, but want to believe one can. In American politics, a person’s character and principles require compromise and sacrifice to rise and succeed in the system, not unlike the corporate or legal world,” Wood says. “That is not an easy road. But politicians have a much greater impact on the lives of Americans than any one company or organization. So if politicians cannot work for
the common good and succeed in governance, our country is in a lot of trouble.”
Disparities exist with regard to gender, he notes.
“I think Americans accept character flaws more easily in men than we do with women. At the same time, we expect more compassion and temperance from women, something we generally need in politics. Macho doesn’t cut it any more,” Wood says. “Whether the actual sacrifices men and women make while rising in politics – family, personal desires, finances or more – are the same, is a great debate that probably comes back more to the ancient battle of the sexes. I imagine, however, that the sacrifices are pretty much the same, and the difference is more about how men vs. women deal with those differences. Regardless, other countries have elected very effective women as their top politicians – Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Angela Merkel. Why not America?”
The United States is ready for a female president, Wood notes. “It’s long overdue. One of the problems our country faces is the dominance of men in politics. It’s no secret men and women are wired differently. It’s in the DNA. Any psychologist will endorse that reality. Finding a balance of ideas and solutions necessitates a better balance of men and women in every boardroom, organization and government,” Wood says.
Now writing the sequel, “Presidential Declarations,” Wood says this second time around should be a bit easier, more enjoyable and exciting.