There’s nothing like reading a novel full of political intrigue written by a political insider. Bestselling author Nicolle Wallace was the White House Communications Director during George W. Bush’s presidency and that experience shows in her writing of Madam President. Imagine being president when the nation is attacked. That would be bad enough but add in an aggressive media team broadcasting from inside the White House when that happens and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Charlotte Kramer, the 45th President of the United States, has a lot to prove and a lot to hide even during her second term as president. Her image has been very carefully crafted and she’s determined to protect it. She’s also determined to be the best president this country has ever seen. Because she’s sometimes perceived as being a bit cold, she’s given Dale, her press secretary, grudging permission for a popular TV media team to shoot a White House day-in-the-life segment for their program. Dale hopes this segment will help project a more humanized vision of Charlotte to the American public. The President is uncomfortable giving a media team that kind of intense personal access but it’s all been carefully orchestrated so, hopefully, everything will go smoothly.
And it’s just one day. What could go wrong? Famous last words. In an epic example of Murphy’s Law timing, terrorists pick that very day to launch five major attacks on major U.S. cities: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC. The President doesn’t just have a run-of-the-mill crisis on her hands, which would be bad enough. She’s got a full-scale assault on the country to deal with. Needless to say, she has no time to molly coddle the media and, she soon learns, no way to get them out of the White House without causing a major media backlash that could destroy her and erode confidence as quickly as these physical assaults are trying to destroy the country. The best she can hope for is try to contain the damage they can do, and the info they can get access to and leak, and that’s about as easy as herding brawling tom cats.
“No one could have anticipated that close to 20 news crews – each including a cameraman, a sound technician, and a producer – would be embedded with the most senior White House staff members when news of the five bombings started to trickle in.
Most of the crews were respectful of the limits the disaster placed on their access, and they’d simply waited in the lobby areas or in the press briefing room. But the two anchors hadn’t taken no for an answer. They felt entitled to the access they’d been promised, regardless of the extraordinary turn of events…
‘They’ve been conducting phone interviews from their cell phones in the West Wing lobby all evening. The other TV correspondents are furious. The bureau chiefs from NBC and ABC are demanding access to the West Wing lobby as well.’…’Oh, another thing. Richard and Lucy are insisting all of their crews be permitted to embed again with the senior staff tomorrow because we cancelled everything today.’ Danner added.”
“Despite the current tragic, catastrophic circumstances, it wasn’t uncomfortable to be with each other like this. Melanie and Charlotte had worked together long enough to take exactly what they needed from each other. Melanie was acting cooler than she felt because she sensed in Charlotte a hotness that would not translate well on camera. For her part, Charlotte was using these few precious moments to process what had happened before packing away her horror and fear, and projecting strength and resolve to the country and the world….
They’d chosen every word in the address with care.
‘The speech is good, Madam President.’
Charlotte nodded, ‘I’ve got this,’ she promised.
‘I know you do,’ Melanie smiled and said a silent prayer for Charlotte.”
Charlotte and her staff soon discover someone in the White House inner circle is leaking vital national security info to the media, info that could sabotage any hopes of containing this massive crisis. And to make matters worse, not only does the President have a professional crisis on her hands along with the fate of the entire country, she’s got personal secrets she can’t allow to get out into the open.
And the President is not the only one with secrets who’s desperate to keep them hidden. Dale, her press secretary, and Melanie, her secretary of defense, are also guarding secrets from each other and they would do anything to prevent those secrets from becoming known. How far will these three women go to protect their reputations and their careers? Can they find the saboteur before he or she leaks info to the voracious media that could destroy the country and/or their personal lives?
I didn’t like President Kramer at first until I began to learn more about her and her relationship with her husband. I didn’t like Dale either at first because of choices she had made, which I won’t provide to avoid spoilers. I’m not sure I’d want either of these women as friends even now but I gained a lot of respect for them as the novel progressed. The woman I did like a lot from the very beginning was Melanie. She’s really the glue that’s been holding this presidency together, almost despite itself, and she has a lot of integrity. I’d love to invite her to dinner and pick her brain. I haven’t mentioned the men in this novel to avoid major spoilers; however, they do not take a back seat at all – it’s not all about the girls after all. LOL
Nicolle Wallace’s White House insider experience makes Madam President come to life on the page. I literally could not put it down and had to keep remembering to breathe. Its fast pace never let up for one second. I do think a woman president could easily have a double standard applied to her by high-level government officials as well as the public. A presidency is not a nurturing job, except that it nurtures the well-being of a country. The kind of hard decisions presidents face daily could be perceived quite differently in a woman than a man. It is possible for a woman to lead without being perceived as a bitch but she has to walk a very fine tightrope to do it. That is definitely an element in this novel, and an interesting one. As I said, I had a blast reading it and hope you do too!
Can’t wait to read it?
Madam President was published on April 28, 2015, so it’s available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller. If you download the e-book, you can have it to read right now!
I’d love to get your comments on Madam President, Nicolle Wallace or her other work, and/or this review.
If you like this review, please contribute to our Reviewers’ Caffeine Fund in the left column. Just a cup a day, that’s all we ask.