The U.S. presidential election every four years is a masquerade of opinions and platitudes driven by media and the 24-hour news cycle. Every soundbite a game changer, every gaffe a campaign destroyer, none of them actually meaningful in reality. The old adage of “the lesser of two evils” is on full display as each campaign races its way to the bottom of the moral and ethical barrel.
What the public could really benefit from is seeing behind the curtain. We want to know who are the real wizards and what really motivates them to take on such a life-engulfing task? Mark Halperin and John Heilemann took us there once before with their book Game Change and they are back to lead us there once again.
Double Down: Game Change 2012 picks up as Republicans are trying to find out who will be their standard bearer for the 2012 resurgence against Obama. It follows the torrential deluge of Republican debates, which caused such regular shifts in who was the “hot candidate of the moment” it was hard not to see it as a movie of the week. As Mitt Romney finally walks away with the prize, we see how little of a gift it really was and how so many in the party didn’t want to bestow it.
If what you read in this book was actually talked about during the elections, it may make things more chaotic, but it would also make the candidates more human, more relatable, which in turn could make them more supportable. For all the time Romney was labeled “robot,” “talking hairpiece,” or “stiff to the point of snapping,” these pages reveal a much more complex personality that is not so easy to pigeonholed or written off as a stereotype. To be sure, he still appears slightly out of touch with the immediate concerns of the middle and lower class, but his heart was in the right place.
During the primary season, reading how each of the pack shot to the top and crash-landed on the cutting room floor of political history is amazing. The fact that some of them chose to run at all is baffling when you learn about the personal hurdles they had to overcome. Michelle Bachmann, the perennial best friend to Washington-based satirists, suffers from stress-induced migraines that can leave her debilitated for hours if not days. The idea that she could mitigate that throughout an entire campaign (or presidency) seems ludicrous.
Rick Perry, the famously forgetful Texan, also jumped into the race quickly after having surgery on his spine, resulting in moments when he needed to be helped up the stairs just to make it to the debate floor.
Most people have no clue of the endurance, both mental and physical, a presidential campaign run puts you and your entire team through. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
idential election, Double Down also shows some of the intense rivalries inside both parties, some of them stewing for years. The borderline-unethical sharpshooting of opponents becomes a daily event and page by page the line you can’t cross becomes blurrier. It all becomes about capturing the news cycle and increasing coverage for you and against them, by whatever means necessary.
The amazing thing for such an addicting book is that for everything that took place, all the deceiving and double-talk from both sides and the more than $2 billion spent, it moved the needle almost zero from before it all started. The polls had Obama winning against Romney, who wasn’t even chosen yet, by almost the exact margin he ended up with. As the smoke from the battlefield cleared, it was like it never even happened.
Double Down is great for political junkies, but even better for those turned off by the dryness of cable news delivery. It’s juicy, dramatic and infused with the play-by-play action of Washington’s favorite contact sport.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0143126008]