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Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime Hardcover – January 11, 2010
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Even before the book was out, its juiciest bits were everywhere: Sarah Palin was serene when chosen for V.P. because it was “God’s plan.” Hillary didn’t know if she could control Bill (duh). Elizabeth Edwards was a shrew, not a saint. Overall, the men from the campaign garner less attention in these anecdote wars than the women and tend to come off better—but only just: Obama, the authors note, can be conceited and windy; McCain was disengaged to the point of recklessness; and John Edwards is a cheating, egotistical blowhard. But, hey, that’s politics, and it’s obvious that authors Heilemann (New York Magazine) and Halperin (Time) worked their sources well—all 200 of them. Some (including the sources themselves) will have trouble with the book’s use of quotes (or lack thereof). The interviews, according to the authors, were conducted “on deep background,” and dialogue was “reconstructed extensively” and with “extreme care.” Sometimes the source of a quote is clear, as when the book gets inside someone’s head, but not always. Many of the book’s events were covered heavily at the time (Hillary’s presumed juggernaut; Michelle Obama’s initial hostility to her husband’s candidacy), but some of what this volume delivers is totally behind-the-scenes and genuinely jaw-dropping, including the revelation that senators ostensibly for Clinton (New York’s Chuck Schumer) pushed hard for Obama. Another? The McCain camp found Sarah Palin by doing computer searches of female Republican officeholders. A sometimes superficial but intensely readable account of a landmark campaign (librarians take note: the exceedingly flimsy binding may reflect the publisher’s haste to rush the book to press). --Ilene Cooper
“A smoking new book. . . . The real revelation in Game Change: Campaigns turn our politicians into lunatics.” (Tina Brown, The Daily Beast)
“Heilemann and Halperin have conducted hundreds of interviews to provide the inside story of the 2008 campaign. . . . It vividly shows how character flaws large and small caused Obama’s opponents to self-destruct.” (Jacob Heilbrunn, The New York Times Book Review)
“A thoroughly researched, well-paced and occasionally very amusing read. . . . The result is something that conveys the feel, or perhaps more accurately the smell, of one of recent history’s most thrilling elections, and it does so better than any of the other books already on the market.” (The Economist)
“I can’t put down this book!” (Stephen Colbert)
“Compulsively readable. Once begun, you can’t put it down. . . . Deeply and knowledgeably reported and presented with all the cool sophistication one would expect from two accomplished political reporters.” (Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times)
“Riveting, definitive. . . . A great campaign book. . . . Halperin and Heilemann got insiders to cough up astonishing artifacts, including emails and recordings. . . . Game Change is really interesting, and puts you deep in the middle of it.” (Kurt Andersen, Very Short List)
“The hottest book in the country.” (The Associated Press)
“Everybody talked. Anybody that tells you they didn’t is lying to you.” (A former top Clinton aide, to Politico’s Ben Smith)
“The best presidential political book since What it Takes by Richard Ben Cramer and Teddy White’s books. These are the types of books that got me into politics.” (Joe Scarborough)
“An explosive new book. . . . An absolute page turner.” (Soledad O’Brien on Larry King Live)
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Overall, I thought the "Game Change" did a good job of being non-partisan. One might argue that the amount of Republican coverage in the book indicates a liberal bias --- a highly dubious argument in my mind since the Democratic primary was the more highly contested and frankly more historically significant in that we would either have the first African-American or first female nominee of a major party in American history. Additionally, this book was no paean to Obama. The author's didn't tread lightly on the fact that he can be as ruthless and cut-throat as any other politician out there. They also provided all of the varied perspectives his foes and colleagues share of him, not a love fest by any means.
It is fascinating to sneak a peek behind the curtain of such a varied cast of characters. We almost always get the package that they want to paint for us --- or the mis-steps they make in the public eye. However, just as they character traits that enable them to excel as public figures, they all have character flaws like we all do. After all that we now know about John Edwards, would we expect a flattering portrait from "Game Change"? Certainly not. Whether you like Sarah Palin or not, is it a surprise that she might not have been prepared for the Vice Presidency of the United States? Probably not. Are we surprised by the Clinton's ruthlessness? Please. Or McCain's lack of organization? Not if you've been following the Senator's career.
For people who are not highly partisan, this is a fascinating and entertaining read. Can I understand why it would anger and inflame those highly partisan folks on both sides of the aisle? Certainly. However, if you have the least bit of interest in politics or the last election, enjoy this book. It is not the definitive historical account of the 2008 election. Given the proximity to the election, a historical perspective would challenge credibility and certainly be far surprassed by true historians once more time has passed. Whatever way you look at it, the election was a riveting drama and this book does well against that criteria.
The first part does its job well, taking the reader inside the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaign for a detailed look at the campaigns and the people who ran them. The second part simply feels light and inadequate, almost as if the authors ran out of time. Surely there must have been some interesting stories out of the Romney campaign (which gets a handful of pages), Mike Huckabee (a few scattered paragraphs) or Ron Paul (one single mention, lumped into a paragraph with five other candidates), but the authors don't get into them. The general election is similarly given short shrift. Although there's some interesting stuff about the selection of Sarah Palin, the book races so quickly through the fall campaign that when the narrative reaches November, the reader is left thinking "Wait -- that was it?"
The personal tidbits of each candidate was most interesting (McCain's fragile personality, Hillary's Bill problems, Obama's toughness, etc.). Learning what the candidates felt about each other (Romney was a joke then as now). Detailing the grueling schedules they put themselves through. The Sarah Palin debacle was amusing as well.
I enjoyed it enough to look forward to a similar book regarding the 2012 campaign!
It was the first time a woman had gotten that far and many of us were rooting for Hillary. Yet Obama was a fresh voice with a calming style that people sensed would be very valuable in light of 8 years of Bush/Cheney and the aftermath.
Plus I think a lot of people wondered how Bill would react with Hillary in the Oval Office....? Unfortunate for her. She certainly had what it took to be in that position but people wondered how that would play out.
The Edwardses......who knew how toxic that couple was? We know now it was no Ozzie & Harriet scene playing out in NC but we used to think they were a bit more normal than we now know they are. One can only feel badly for the children, all of them, his, theirs, the new baby. Very sad. Classic narcissism on his part.
We knew Palin was looney... and not too smart.... but it is always fun to read just how looney and dumb she is.
We suspected McCain was a bit closer to being an old dodderer than he wanted us to think he was. And we were right! He has not taken after his mother. His remaining years will be better for him not having won. He was not up to it. Not really. He wanted to be but in the end they should've run Romney it looks like now.
Sort of good, I thought, to read it to validate that what some things looked like on the outside.....they were exactly that on the inside. It will be one election I won't forget.
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The 2008 campaign was crazy. I was too young to live it, to be concious about it.Read more