"This shit would be really interesting if we weren't in the middle of it."—Barack Obama, September 2008
In 2008, the presidential election became blockbuster entertainment. Everyone was watching as the race for the White House unfolded like something from the realm of fiction. The meteoric rise and historic triumph of Barack Obama. The shocking fall of the House of Clinton—and the improbable resurrection of Hillary as Obama's partner and America's face to the world. The mercurial performance of John McCain and the mesmerizing emergence of Sarah Palin. But despite the wall-to-wall media coverage of this spellbinding drama, remarkably little of the real story behind the headlines has yet been told.
In Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, two of the country's leading political reporters, use their unrivaled access to pull back the curtain on the Obama, Clinton, McCain, and Palin campaigns. How did Obama convince himself that, despite the thinness of his résumé, he could somehow beat the odds to become the nation's first African American president? How did the tumultuous relationship between the Clintons shape—and warp—Hillary's supposedly unstoppable bid? What was behind her husband's furious outbursts and devastating political miscalculations? Why did McCain make the novice governor of Alaska his running mate? And was Palin merely painfully out of her depth—or troubled in more serious ways?
Game Change answers those questions and more, laying bare the secret history of the 2008 campaign. Heilemann and Halperin take us inside the Obama machine, where staffers referred to the candidate as "Black Jesus." They unearth the quiet conspiracy in the U.S. Senate to prod Obama into the race, driven in part by the fears of senior Democrats that Bill Clinton's personal life might cripple Hillary's presidential prospects. They expose the twisted tale of John Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter, the truth behind the downfall of Rudy Giuliani, and the doubts of those responsible for vetting Palin about her readiness for the Republican ticket—along with the McCain campaign staff's worries about her fitness for office. And they reveal how, in an emotional late-night phone call, Obama succeeded in wooing Clinton, despite her staunch resistance, to become his secretary of state.
Based on hundreds of interviews with the people who lived the story, Game Change is a reportorial tour de force that reads like a fast-paced novel. Character driven and dialogue rich, replete with extravagantly detailed scenes, this is the occasionally shocking, often hilarious, ultimately definitive account of the campaign of a lifetime.
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Maybe America just voted for the only sane people in the pack - Barack and Michelle. This book recounts the astonishing dysfunction of the Edward's marriage (both of the partners equally pouring the crazy), and the unbelievable delusional thinking of John Edwards. To think that he had a chance at the nomination, or the vice presidency, or any office, is frightening, notwithstanding his sometimes superior policy proposals. The Clintons are revealed to be more dysfunctional than I had imagined them, although one does sometimes sense an underlying affection as well. Is that affection real or a well practiced political habit? It's very hard to read them, but whatever relationship they have worked out it would be hard to describe it as completely positive or parsable in everyday terms.
As for John McCain and Cindy, their marriage is revealed to be clearly a shell of an actual relationship - like the Clintons they seem to be largely a political corporation. The Palins, while explored in less depth, are also pretty obvious head cases, individually and as a unit, to say nothing of Sarah Palin's astonishing, mind numbing, blistering, gobsmacking ignorance. In all of these above relationships the rumors or realities of infidelities circulate.
In contrast to all the rest of them the Obamas come out seeming like fairly sane and emotionally whole people with an actual love relationship and friendship that might even have significance to them beyond their career as a political family. And, somehow America chose Obama, and somehow it rejected the other nutcases in their nutcase marriages. What that means, I do not know.more
You learn about all the major players in the Presidential campaign, including John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and of course, Sarah Palin. I was surprised by many things I read; for instance, John McCain was not very invested in his campaign for months, and there were a few times it almost ended. Sarah Palin became so morose and withdrawn during the campaign that McCain's people called in a psychiatrist to observe her mental state. Michelle Obama was completely opposed to Barack Obama running for president - and Cindy McCain didn't want John to run, either. John Edwards was extremely egotistical, and toward the end of his campaign, completely delusional, and his wife, Elizabeth, comes across completely differently than her public persona.
It's a juicy story, but one with plenty of political behind the scenes information, as well - the part in which the authors cover the financial meltdown is very interesting - and it reads like a novel. Anyone who has interest in politics, especially in the 2008 election, will be very entertained by this book.more