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Book Review: Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

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Oh my, Game Change, though somewhat “tabloidish” is a fascinating read and quite the political ride. If the information gathered by authors, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (both veteran political reporters), is accurate, not only does it confirm the head games, spin, smear tactics, rumor mills, and the wasted multimillions of dollars that has become commonplace in political campaigns, it exhibits more of what really happens –– the good, the bad and the in between –– inside a presidential campaign; a game where stakes are high and boundaries are low.

The uniqueness of Game Change is that in a novel-like style it brings back memories of the historical 2008 presidential race and takes you deeper into the main teams and the players in this match: the Obamas, the Clintons, McCain and Palin. A presidential race, which actually began with Barack Obama’s (then a candidate for Senator) keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention –– a speech I personally remember saying, “that guy is gonna go far!” How far, we all now know!

Game Change quickly became a media sensation –– the media, another key factor in the 2008 presidential race –– and a bestseller even before it was released in January 2010. This was partly due to the Harry Reid “light-skinned, no Negro dialect” comment. However, what didn’t make the headlines were more prickly pieces of the campaign that are found in this book. The most telling were the disloyal and spineless Democratic Senators, Chuck Schumer, along with Ben Nelson, Barbara Boxer, and others, who were "nudging" Obama to run for president, yet, they would only "bless him secretly."

While in 2006 Obama’s staffers gave Obama the nickname “Black Jesus,” Hillary Clinton had another name for Obama; in reaction to the presidential debate at Drexel University in October 2007, “What an asshole,” Clinton grumbled to her aids. “Am I the only one who sees the arrogance? Does that not bother people?” Then there was Joe Biden's "run-away-mouth," which continued even after he became the vice-presidential pick. Seemingly, Biden shared with others that "he was more qualified to be president than Obama." This statement and other "public gaffes" frustrated and angered the Obama Team and caused major tension between Biden and Obama. Game Change also explores why McCain chose an unknown to be his vice-president running mate –– Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin –– an announcement that shocked the nation, the media, and even Obama.

Heilemann and Halperin also bring to the forefront the personalities and temperaments of the 2008 presidential candidates as well as their staff — some public knowledge and some not. They shed light on Obama’s arrogance and elitist mentality and John Edwards' infidelity and desperation. Game Change provides other tidbits of data like McCain’s fondness for the “F” word, a hilarious account of McCain's media guy who thought Palin's hair was on fire, plus much more.

While it is not fair to judge one’s entire character derived from the accounts of a book which is based on facts mixed in with hearsay, my own personal opinions arose from reading Game Change: Obama arrogant, absolutely, but he scores high points on the family front. It left me with the sense that John Edwards is a weasel, McCain a grump, and Rudy Giuliani’s third wife pathetic. However, I did gain a new found respect and admiration for Hillary Clinton and found Bill Clinton to be somewhat amusing. Joe Lieberman shines as a loyal McCain ally and friend. Sarah Palin on the other hand comes across as confident with rock star qualities, yet, ill-equipped to handle the task at hand. And what made Palin "go rogue"? Maybe it was because she was on the Atkins diet. Eat some carbs, woman, you'll feel better! 

Additionally, about a third of the way through Game Change, it dawned on me –– not that I hadn’t had these thoughts before –– these people (politicians) don’t give a rat's ass about us (citizens). In fact we are not human beings to them; we are just polls and votes that feed their huge egos and catapult them into their ultimate goal of power and in this case the presidency of the United States. The true “game change” will be when we Americans wake up, take a long look at all of our politicians, and make more educated and enlightened choices.

As many of us watched the unraveling of the 2008 presidential race –– a game that changed often and at times seemed chaotic –– the end game is no mystery and boiled down to Hope and Change vs. Country First. Presidential political campaigns are an arena where perception and truth are intertwined and this time brought us a mirage of "hope and change." Game Change covers the final weeks concluding with Obama's sweeping victory, but the book doesn't end there; Heilemann and Halperin, reveal one more interesting piece of the "game change" puzzle. This piece, like so many others mentioned and left out of my review, is best to unveil when the book is read in its entirety.

Game Change, a present I got for my birthday last week, although a lengthy book, is definitely worth reading — especially if you enjoy politics. After all, politics is a contact sport and no better place to view the brutality and pleasure of it all than from the inside, even if it is already in the past.

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About Christine Lakatos

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “the disloyal and spineless Democratic Senators, Chuck Schumer, along with Ben Nelson, Barbara Boxer”

    They don’t sound spineless. They sound like they were wisely playing both sides which is smart on politics.

    Does the book give more attention to the Democratic infighting like your review does because I thought they had a more balanced approach?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos-/ Christine

    Dear El: Part One (pages 13 thru 251) is all Obama and Clinton and Edwards; Part Two (271 to 305) is McCain and Palin; Part Three (pages 323 to 429) is a mix but again mainly focus on Obama and Clinton camps.

    Most of the infighting was more do with the staff and the candidates. And Palin’s was more about how inadequate she was.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    gotcha. The media must have played up Palin more due to her being a hotter commodity than Clinton and Edwards.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos-/ Christine

    PS: actually most of the infighting was between the staff. Just a mini correction.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Christine,

    Good to see you posting again. Atta girl.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Yeah, Roger: Had to take a break, deal with some personal stuff, then read that book! Hey I heard your voice on Silas’ Blog Talk Radio show: Cindy and Clavos too. Listened to the whole thing; very cool!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yeah, that was fun.

    I was hoping of pulling together some of our resources and make the program more successful, reaching greater audience. But Silas thus far failed to respond to me.

    Shall see.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Yeah, I would love to be part if it happens; keep me posted!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, you’d better pester Silas then. Because from the look of things, it appears as though he suspect me of trying to diminish his rising star.

  • http://www.internationalterrorist.com/ Faraq Mo’him

    haha loser americans! you have us to thank for your Obama president, we contribute more to his campaign than you fat mcdonalds buying walmart loving slobs. go lose a global game of hide and seek against us hahaha

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