Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

I had really been looking forward to reading this book and I finally got my library copy. I kept it way past the due date so they are probably going to rip up my library card. But this is supposed to be “the” book about our last presidential election.

Wow, has there ever been an election like the last one. It was fun. First we had Queen Hillary prancing along with King Bill like it was going to be a coronation and then along comes this guy Obama who kicks her butt. I mean bad, from one end of this nation to the other. Along the way John “Hair” Edwards gets shown for what he really is, a creep. Obama swept to the Democratic nomination all cool, calm, and collected. Hillary fought tooth and nail to the very end. At the Democratic convention Hillary gives a great speech. Good enough to get Secretary of State! But hey O, what’s up with Joe Biden? Joe Biden O, is that the best you got?

And then on the Republican side. You had McCain, war hero, POW, and hard working Senator, and the seven mutts. Mitt Romney completely changing his positions to align with the electorate, same with Rudy. McCain starts strong and then runs out of money, goes rogue and low budget and comes storming back. McCain changed all his positions in order to bow, scrape, and kowtow to the religious right. It didn’t do any good, they weren’t buying it. But they aren’t going to vote for Obama, no matter what. But hey this is politics. It’s not about principles anymore, maybe never was. It’s about focus groups, positioning, wedge issues, marketing, and money. Big on the money.

Anyway, McCain is getting his butt kicked good by Obama. Obama is harvesting the money off the internet like nobody’s business and McCain is not doing very well. The old fighter pilot knows that he runs the same old campaign with a predictable running mate he is going to get shot down. So he picks Sarah Palin, who? We had never heard of her but have you ever heard a better convention speech than what she gave? It was awesome! She kicked some butt. McCain got a kick in the polls and the race was on.

The press started checking on Palin. They check thoroughly. What do they find? Well maybe she was not exactly opposed to the “bridge to nowhere,” maybe she didn’t exactly sell the State airplane on ebay. It turns out that a lot of what she claimed just plain was not true. And then what about her experience, mayor of a small town. Ethic investigations in the Statehouse (“Troopergate”). The McCain campaign kept playing catch up with her on various issues.

I’m actually sympathetic to Palin. The book claims that the McCain campaign only spent a couple days checking her out. They are not looking for somebody who is spotless, nobody is. They just want to find all the warts, freckles, and wrinkles so they can develop a strategy for dealing with them. I don’t think she understood just how closely the microscope is that she would be under. So, the McCain campaign kind of threw her under the bus and she had to fend for herself. I also don’t think she understood how grueling a campaign is with every minute scheduled and an army of press ready to jump on you if you make a mistake.

She also just plain wasn’t ready. She still gets mad at Katie Couric for asking such “unfair” questions like “What newspapers do you read?” She is a great communicator. I don’t think we have heard the last of her. Whether it is more gaffes like the whole “death panel” thing or if she uses her charisma in a positive manner is an open question at this point.

Palin was a bold gamble for McCain and it could have paid off. The country was ready for a change and they got one. We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway, the book explains all the ins and outs of the campaign. It is very sympathetic to Obama. Cool, bright, and capable, yet unexperienced. McCain the principled, fly by the seat of the pants fighter pilot who wouldn’t go down without a fight.

This is a great book. If you found the last election fascinating, I recommend it. Four stars out of four from me.

10 thoughts on “Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

  1. Trait

    I probably had that library copy right before you got it. I agree with you about the book. It was fascinating. For those interested in campaigns, Hillary’s is a case study in what not to do. Ultimately, it’s all about organization and discipline, which is one of the reasons Obama was so successful.

  2. Jenn Jilks

    That is a hoot. My hubby joined the library board, they seem to forgive our debts… 🙂

    Interesting things going on in your end of the continent! I do miss Tina Fey’s impersonations.

  3. Sharon's Mum Anne

    We’re in the middle of a general election and the great hoo-ha over here is the three main leaders are on tv for a live debate this evening. For us, the first of its kind. Having had such a dearth of MPs cheating on their expenses over the past few months there doesn’t seem to be great interest in who to vote for! Frankly, they’re all coming over as bad as each other. However, being an oldie I don’t believe in not voting but I’m still undecided. I have three weeks in which to make up my mind.

  4. Coffee with Clark

    Agreed…great insight into the most entertaining presidential election I can remember. A good Review Alan. Yes, it’s sympathetic to Obama–and i voted for him. I so wish McCain had won the nomination in 2000. This country will always need politicians with his principles and your characterization of him as a fly by the seat of your pants fighter pilot skills. This book accurately shows the disarray Palin caused his campaign.
    Terrific dramatic reading…hard to believe it’s not fiction–but then who could have made up such an election campaign.

  5. Dawn

    You did a great review Alan!

    This was an election our country will never forget. I’m completely anti-Obama, but it was definitely history making, and still is.

  6. the7msn

    Your review nails it. I listened to the audiobook version and walked many extra miles with Smooch because I didn’t want to put it down.

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