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Tag: Game Change (1-3 of 3)

'Double Down' scoop: Chris Christie's baggage, the Clinton-for-Biden swap, and Clint Eastwood's convention speech

You don’t need to DVR Meet the Press every Sunday morning to appreciate Double Down, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s chronicle of the 2012 election. Even with two vanilla main characters like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the two journalists behind Game Change have a supporting cast that would make the Coen brothers tremble in jealousy. There’s Joe Biden and Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Chris Christie, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Republican-primary sideshow. With Double Down, the two “inside” journalists pick through the carcasses of the losing side, shed light on the decisions of the victors, and wrap every chapter conclusion with an unwritten postscript that seems to say, “Is this really the best way to pick a leader?”

Double Down examines plenty of what-ifs — Hillary for V.P? — and even more what-will-bes, as it sets the table for Game Change III: 2016, which could feature Hillary Clinton squaring off against combative New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Until then, let’s dig into Double Down‘s most-talked-about revelations:

Hillary almost replaced Biden on the ticket

Well, no, not almost. But the White House gave it some serious thought. Biden was loyal to Obama and useful during the first term, but he had crossed wires with the White House on Catholic organizations’ exceptions for women’s birth control as part of Obamacare, and jumped the gun on gay marriage. He was not part of the president’s inner circle, and Halperin and Heilemann compared him and Obama’s doomed Chief of Staff Bill Daley to the ol’ fogey Muppets in the balcony, Waldorf and Statler. Funny then, that Daley — who’d been Biden’s own political director back in 1988 — had argued for Hillary Clinton to take his old boss’s spot on the Democratic ticket in 2012. Clinton had seen her reputation soar in her new duties as Secretary of State, and was beloved by the party. The campaign tested the idea on focus groups, and ultimately decided that Clinton wouldn’t move the needle enough to make the switch. According to the authors, Biden never knew he’d “dodged a bullet he never saw coming.” READ FULL STORY

'Game Change': The authors discuss politics as unusual

The 2008 presidential election was historic both in terms of the nature of its candidates and its near-complete level of media saturation, but political journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann somehow managed to put together a campaign book chock full of behind-the-scenes details, often juicy, that were overlooked the first go-round. That book, Game Change (click to see the EW review), quickly became a best-seller, demonstrating that over 15 months later, we as a nation are still captivated by that year-long mad rush towards the White House. The two authors spoke with EW about doing hundreds of interviews, how they deal with accusations of gossip-peddling, and their exhaustive attempts to report all the fear and loathing on the campaign trail.

Why do you think so many people are still interested in this particular election, over a year later, even though they know the ending?

John: We started out with a notion as we were covering the campaign that this was an unusual election on a lot of different levels, but it was unusual in particular in that the candidates who were front-and-center were bigger-than-life characters. You had here people who were more interesting than your average politician. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, these are all people who had celebrity stature. We often like to joke that any race where Rudy Giuliani is the seventh most interesting person is a pretty colorful race. And we thought that all the historic circumstances around the campaign in combination with these characters who had clearly riveted the country in a way that we hadn’t seen before in a presidential election, we thought that there was some chance, that if we rendered the high human drama of what it was like to go through it, and how it changed them, and how the strengths and weaknesses in their characters affected the outcome, that people would, a year later, still have some interest in it, if we did our jobs right.

In the prologue you say that it’s essentially a love story between Obama and Clinton. But parts almost feel like a Greek tragedy…

Mark: We hoped to write a book that wouldn’t be seen as a political book that only people in the beltway would read. What we thought was that these were bigger-than-life figures, many of them iconic, and there was a lot of tragedy and comedy and high drama that, if we told the story right, would reveal these famous people but in a brand-new way. READ FULL STORY

Game Change: The EW Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Game Change, but it wasn’t this: a rollicking, profane, funny, incredibly detailed account of the 2008 campaign. Here’s my review:

Journalists, pundits, and bloggers have all chewed over the 2008 presidential campaign so thoroughly, so relentlessly, that there would seem to be little meat left on the bone. But two veteran political reporters – New York magazine’s John Heilemann and Time’s Mark Halperin — have found plenty of fresh dish, and they’ve served it up in Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime.

What makes their book different from others, and so riveting, is the depth of their material–some of it obtained the old-fashioned way, through dogged investigative reporting, and some of it courtesy of their innumerable sources, such as Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary Clinton’s onetime campaign manager. But don’t be fooled: This is no dry history. In fact, in places it reads less like a campaign memoir than like a Jackie Collins novel, packed with seamy details about extramarital sex and screaming arguments. Its pages brim with scandalous tidbits: John Edwards refuses to take responsibility for Rielle Hunter, demanding furiously of a young aide, “Why didn’t you come to me like a  f—-ing man and tell me to stop f—ing her?” Elizabeth Edwards, furious at her husband’s infidelity, dramatically rips open her shirt in an airport, and calls a staffer in the middle of the night: “Get me out of here! I’m not campaigning for this a–hole another day!” John McCain alternately screams obscenities at his wife, Cindy, and refuses to take any interest in the nuts and bolts of his campaign: “He really just didn’t give a s—. The details made his head hurt.” Barack Obama sometimes comes off as moody and difficult, at times almost undone by his cocky self-assurance. “I’m LeBron, baby,” he once told a reporter. “I can play on this level. I got some game.” Interestingly, the one person you’d expect would fare poorly here–vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin–gets a pass. Though the authors duly report that “some in the upper echelons of McCainworld began to believe that Palin was unfit for higher office,” they say bluntly that “the McCain people did fail [her]…. They amassed polling points and dollars off her fiery charisma, and then left her to burn up in the inferno of public opinion.”

Game Change isn’t perfect. The authors obviously have sources in pretty high places (a couple of conversations between the Clintons are recounted verbatim, including a fascinating one on a beach in Anguilla), but without a bibliography, it’s hard to identify them all. (That said, there are a lot more people on the record here than in, say, a Bob Woodward book.) The tone can shift, a little disconcertingly, from elegant description to profanity-laced staccato in the space of a line or two (people are constantly going rips— or apes—. There’s a lot of s— in Game Change). And Heilemann and Halperin are guilty of some pretty mean-spirited caricature, even if it is dead-on. Clinton is “resplendent in fire engine red and wearing a rictus grin” at one event; Rudy Giuliani, when challenged, “would bare his cartoonishly big teeth.” But these are pretty minor quibbles. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the cutthroat backroom hows and whys of a presidential campaign — especially this presidential campaign, filled as it was with scene-stealing characters and bad behavior, and memorable for all kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with Obama’s skin color and everything to do with his impeccably run grassroots organization. And it doesn’t hurt that Game Change reads more bodice-ripper than Beltway. A-


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