Skip to main content

CBR4 #27: Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

I know, people. I know. At this point I am so far behind I can never possibly catch up. But doesn't mean I shouldn't put forth SOME effort while I have the chance. Let's just pretend that I don't have 35+ books sitting un-reviewed and focus on one book at a time.

I hadn't wanted to read Game Change for a while. I mostly find political rhetoric exhausting and infuriating. I'm not especially good at political conversations, since I'm not very good at pulling out well-sourced facts in the face of (what I consider to be) woeful misinformation. I usually end up sputtering "Well I read somewhere that that's not true!" and then eventually getting so angry and frustrated that I have to give up. My brain contains a LOT of information (you should see me play Jeopardy) but knowing exactly where it came from isn't a strong point. And if you're going to be discussing things of this level of importance, you should be able to source your facts. The other problem is that I--like most people, probably--don't necessarily fall neatly into a single category. Mostly I'm a pretty liberal Democrat, but there are a few issues where my conservative Republican upbringing rears its head. What I'm saying basically is that when it comes to politics I am often confused and conflicted.

The interesting thing about Game Change is that it seems the politicians involved can be just as confused and conflicted.

The book tells the story of the 2008 presidential primaries and election from an insider's perspective. It's mostly the story of the struggle between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and details both the campaign itself and also how both candidates made the decision to run. This is a warts-and-all portrayal, though Obama does come off slightly better than anyone else depicted. His flaws are portrayed as being occasional arrogance, consistent cockiness, quite a bit of naivete. Hilary is shown as a bit more cynical, coming at things from the perspective of a long-time Washington insider and part of the "Clinton Dynasty". Both have to try and decide their reasons for running, how they want to proceed with their campaigns, what strategies to employ, how far to go, and how their fight will effect the party as a whole.

The second part of book continues to follow Obama's presidential campaign, and also brings in McCain's. The choice of running mates, the decisions on which strategies to pursue, and the election itself are all closely followed. The book ends by showing President Obama convincing Hilary Clinton to come aboard as Secretary of State.

On the whole, this book is intellectually interesting as far as the structure and nature of politics goes. The idea that there are so many people involved in an undertaking of this type (and that so many of them hate each other and are embroiled in constant power struggles) is mind-boggling. The choices that have to be made can have unforeseen effects, and every word must be carefully checked (the problems on this front with both Joe Biden and Bill Clinton are obvious.)

I have to admit, though, that my favorite part was the more gossipy end of the spectrum. What was the deal with John Edwards and his loony mistress? How do the Clintons get along and was Bill really subconsciously sabotaging Hilary's campaign? Why did McCain choose Sarah Palin as his running mate? The insider's view of the personalities involved was what really kept me reading the book. I found myself feeling more admiration for Hilary Clinton and more sympathy for Sarah Palin than I'd expected. It's politics on a grand scale, but when it comes right down to it, it's all personalities.

I'd recommend this to anyone who is interested in the guts of a national political campaign, or in any of the people involved in this one. It's not a particularly flattering account of anyone involved (Obama comes out slightly better than the rest, but he takes his lumps, too) but it has a feeling of honesty.


Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…

CBR9 #3: Missing Wives, Missing Lives by JJ Slate

There's a lot of discussion these days about things that are dangerous to women--is it heart disease? Is it stress? Car accidents? Drugs? Serial killers? Trans women in bathrooms?--but it seems like one of the biggest hazards to women are the men in their lives.

This book details the cases of thirty women who vanished. Stretching back to 1976, and with cases as recent as 2007, the women featured in this book seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, never to be seen again. For some, the legal system was able to prove a case against the men in their lives, but for others, the search for justice may never be resolved.

The amazing thing to me was the stories that the husbands gave upon their wives' disappearances. "So, you had a fight, and she just left the house--at 3am. In her pajamas. Barefoot. Without her purse, or her glasses, or her car, or her TEETH? Leaving her small dependent children behind. And you decided to say nothing for three weeks? And while she was gon…