Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

5-11 Game Change is more than just a movie

51112 Game Change

SANTA FE – It isn't common to recommend a book that is two years old, especially when it chronicles events of four years ago. Besides that, the book is about politics, of which it has been said that a day can seem like a hundred years.
But Game Change, by top political writers Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is a book that still is current today. To know the inside scoop about what happened in the last presidential election is to have an insight into what is happening now.
Several friends recently have seen the movie by the same name and have recommended I see it. I suggest they read the book. The movie covers the relationships among John McCain, his staff and Sarah Palin. That's all the time they had.
The book covers the inside stories of the Obamas, the Clintons, the Edwards, the McCains, the Palins and their staffs. Much of the inside information came from staff members following the election.
More than 300 interviews were conducted with over 200 people. Many of them provided emails, recordings, notes, memos, schedules and other forms of documentation. All interviews were conducted on a "deep background" basis, meaning the sources were not identified in any way.
As one might imagine, many of the sources firmly denied they ever had made such comments. It was left to the reader to decide who was telling the truth. One thing working in the writers' favor is that no one came out looking really good.
To my eye, the book didn't appear to have a political bias. Although to some of the characters and their supporters, bias was completely evident. But that's the way it goes. Such is to be expected.
But then came the movie – with film clips. It is difficult to deny that you are misquoting yourself on film. McCain's senior strategist Steve Schmidt said watching the HBO movie was tantamount to an out-of-body experience. Palin and McCain said they wouldn't be watching the movie so they wouldn't be commenting on the content.
Much of the book and movie centered on Schmidt's decision that McCain needed a game changer in order to salvage the election. Sarah Palin was a game changer. She added an energy to the campaign that previously had been lacking.
But in the end, Palin again became a game changer when it became evident to America that she was not ready to become president.
The movie has been well received by critics. It may help add to the credibility of the book. The stories of all the candidates, their spouses and staff deserve notice.
The biggest message I received from the book was that nothing is as it seems. Barack Obama is Mr. Cool in his public life. He is smart, calm and well-spoken. In private life, he is profane, tentative and trigger-tempered.
The other huge surprise was that the late Elizabeth Edwards, who appeared courageous, heroic and angelic, was, in fact, vindictive, abusive and foul-mouthed. Michelle Obama is the only person in the entire batch that I'd be proud for my grandchildren to know.
The biggest downer from the book is that the people who seek to lead us are no better than we are in our worst moments.
A few bloggers have insisted they knew all the secrets revealed in the book. I find that very difficult to believe. Even more criticism has been heaped on the media for not knowing all this while it was happening. The answer to that is that the mainstream media are held to different standards.
Those who saw only the movie missed what the authors said were the biggest game change of all. On the very last page of the book, Hillary Clinton agreed to become President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.
She previously had declined to accept because Bill Clinton was such a wild card that neither Hillary nor Obama ever could control what he might do. But thy worked it out.


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