O: A Presidential Novel, the author has been unmasked. Mark Halperin of Time has confirmed that John McCain aide and speechwriter Mark Salter is the pen behind the work of speculative semi-fiction. Well, that was certainly quicker than with Primary Colors: Scribe Joe Klein managed to elude identification for about seven months back in 1996 when that anonymous political novel was published. Salter and Simon & Schuster head Jonathan Karp have yet to confirm this revelation.O, what a trip it’s been. Less than a month after politicos and journalists got themselves all frothed up over an Amazon.com posting for the anonymously written
Tag: John McCain (1-3 of 3)
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
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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