Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GAME CHANGE plays for keeps



I have been drawn back into old episodes of The West Wing on Bravo TV weekdays mornings at 8am. It's a great way to pass time while on the treadmill, I get so engrossed that before I know it, an hour has disappeared.

Anyone who loved The West Wing will want to read Game Change- Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Race of a Lifetime by political reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

Now that some time has passed and election fatigue is over, (and with all of the stunning events that have plagued this country in the past year, it seems like the election was years ago) it is time for an analysis of that historic election.

The authors spoke to many people on the inside of the presidential campaigns, and their insights are fascinating. This book is written in such a compelling manner, it reads more like a page-turning fiction book. And honestly, how many people just ten years ago could have predicted an African-American candidate would come out of nowhere to defeat a controversial former First Lady for the Democratic nomination and then win the Presidency?

One of the main themes of the book is that people who run for president have big egos. Obviously, you would have to have a big ego to believe that you should be the leader of the free world. Barack Obama's ego is on display when he whines that John Grisham's non-fiction book, An Innocent Man publishes on the same days as his, thus bumping him to second on the best seller list. "But I want to be number one" he whines.

When Hillary Clinton is deciding whether she should run for president, it is her husband Bill who clarifies for her, asking her a question that, reading this book, I had to wonder whether the other candidates asked themselves
You have to ask yourself one question, he replied. Of all the people running, would I be the best president? If you can answer yes, then you need to run. If you're not sure, then you need to think more about it, and if the answer is no, then don't do it.


Reading this book, I got the impression that some of the people working on these campaigns asked a different question: Can I get this person elected? Not whether this person is the most qualified, but the most electable; an important distinction in my mind.

John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth fare poorly in this book. Edwards' behavior is most appalling. When Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter begins to become common knowledge in his inner circle, he rips into a young, idealistic staffer, blaming the 27-year-old man for leaking the information. Edwards has the utter gall to scream at the young man "Why didn't you come to me like a (expletive deleted) man and tell me to stop (expletive deleted) her?" He actually blames this aide for not stopping him from committing adultery! That one incident alone tells more about Edwards lack of character than any other.

This book's account of Sarah Palin's rise to national prominence differs greatly from her Going Rogue. She is depicted as being in way over her head as a Vice-Presidential candidate. The campaign's attempts to bring her up to speed on subjects she needed to know for interviews and her debate with Joe Biden are disturbing. She wrote out flash cards to help her learn, and the stack was so big, it was overwhelming her. It reminds me of a college student cramming for a final when she never attended the class during the year.

There is so much crammed into this book, political junkies will be in heaven. It is also must-reading for anyone who is engaged in current events, and it puts into question whether the complicated primary process in its current form is the best way to elect the most important office in the land.

Rating 4.5 of 5 stars

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