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Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a lifetime by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin
May 3, 2011, 7 pm
Two well known political journalists offer inside information on the campaigns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Sarah Palin, as well as insights into their responses to campaign stress.
By Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
Mark Halperin, editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME, covers politics, elections and government for the magazine and TIME.com. Halperin is also the creator and author of TIME.com's "The Page," a news and analysis tip sheet that gathers and edits the latest political stories, campaign ads, TV clips, videos and campaign reactions from every news source, along with Halperin's own analysis. In addition, Halperin is senior political analyst for MSNBC, where he appears regularly on "Morning Joe" and other programs on the cable channel.
Prior to joining TIME in April 2007, Halperin worked at ABC News for nearly 20 years, where he covered five presidential elections and served as political director from November 1997 to April 2007. In that role, he was responsible for political reporting and planning for the network's television, radio and Internet political coverage. He also appeared regularly on ABC News TV and radio as a correspondent and analyst, contributing commentary and reporting during election night coverage, presidential inaugurations and State of the Union speeches.
At ABC, Halperin reported on every major American political story, including working as a full-time reporter covering the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992 and the Clinton White House. He also covered major non-political stories, such as the O.J. Simpson criminal trial and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Additionally, Halperin founded and edited the online publication The Note on abcnews.com, which was characterized as the most influential daily tipsheet in American politics by publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair.
He is the co-author of the New York Times #1 best-seller Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, Palin and McCain, and the Race of a Lifetime (Harper, 2010); author of The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President (Harper Perennial, 2007); and co-author of The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Random House, 2006).
Halperin received his B A. from Harvard University and resides in New York City with Karen Avrich.
John Heilemann is the national political correspondent and columnist for New York magazine. An award-winning journalist and the author of Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era and coauthor of Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, he is a former staff writer for The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
By Alan Wolfe, Washington Post—Sunday, January 17, 2010
Oboma and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime
By John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
During elections, people make judgments about who should hold office. They also make judgments about the journalists who cover the campaigns.
John Heilemann, national political correspondent for New York magazine, and Mark Halperin, editor at large for Time, have been subject to some pretty harsh judgments of their coverage. Both are members in good standing of the "Village," the derisive term widely used in the blogosphere to convey what critics see as the insular and complacent quality of mainstream journalism. Halperin has been dismissed as a "babbling idiot" (Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post), as "hilariously predictable" (Digby of the blog Hullabaloo) and as the author of "the most vapid, smug, and innate commentary that has come out of the Village in a long time" (Jonathan Zasloff, the UCLA law professor who posts at the Reality-Based Community).
The lefty bloggers1 basic complaint is that the Washington press corps deals in trivia, reflects conventional wisdom and is all too respectful of the politicians it should be challenging. "Game Change," the new book by Heilemann and Halperin, offers this reviewer a chance to judge the judgers: Are the bloggers on to something, or are they just jealous of the fact that inside-the-Beltway journalists such as Heilemann and Halperin are quite skillful?
At one level, "Game Change" is a familiar retelling of the key moments of a presidential campaign. Compared with the classics of the genre, it more than holds its own. At times, the authors cannot help restating the obvious, as in this strikingly unimaginative sentence: "With his war heroism, famously independent streak, and reformist stances on matters such as campaign finance, McCain's maverick image was sterling."
Yet despite such banalities, they not only tell the story of the 2008 campaign in an engaging and readable way, they come up with some real reporting. Much of that reporting, it must be said, is of the gossipy sort, such as Harry Reid's by-now famous comment about black speech. Still, although I had some sense of the dimensions of the Palin disaster before reading this book, the authors' account of how she failed to prepare for her debate with Joe Biden is chilling: "When her aides tried to quiz her, she would routinely shut down — chin on her chest, arms folded, eyes cast to the floor, speechless and motionless, lost in what those around her described as a kind of catatonic stupor."
There are also juicy details about the fear that leading Democrats had about Bill Clinton's reputation as a ladies man, as well as the outsize ego and bullying behavior of the seemingly angelic Elizabeth Edwards, who, the authors write, "was forever letting John know she regarded
him as her intellectual inferior" and "routinely unleashed profanity-laden tirades on conference calls." I doubt that any other book about the 2008 election will top this one in narrative drive.
For all that, however, "Game Change" inadvertently confirms just how many of our top political journalists really are Villagers, even if, in the case of these two, they live in New York. (Washington -- and especially Georgetown ~ is the small town the bloggers have in mind.) For one thing, Heilemann and Halperin write about the campaign as if they were not active participants in shaping it. At one particularly inane moment during the debates, for instance, Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself being grilled over whether illegal immigrants ought to have New York driver's licenses. Compared with terrorism or the coming economic catastrophe, this was not the most burning question. The media focus on this kind of issue is precisely what the liberal bloggers gripe about; surely, they insist, our politics does not have to be this trivial.