The controversy stirring new book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann (New York magazine) and Mark Halperin (Time magazine) has been all the political news rage since last week.
The early leak of Harry Reid’s race faux pas has all but overshadowed the full breadth of the book. It’s hardly Race 2008 by the National Enquirer. Instead, Heilemann and Helperin take readers on a full fledged backstage tour of the 2008 presidential campaign, beginning with Hillary Clinton’s decision not to run in 2004. Rather than a review, I plan to run excerpts to begin; it appears to be worth the $15 Amazon price if you like knowing the machinations that stoke the frenzied fires of politics.
On Hillary’s Iowa caucus blow-out loss (p. 5):
How did this happen? the Clintons asked again and again, grilling [Mark] Penn about his polling and [Mandy] Grunwald about her ads, railing about the unholy amount of cash the campaign had blown in Iowa. (The final tally would be $29 million–for 70,000 votes.) The turnout figures made no sense to them: some 239,000 caucus-goers had shown up, nearly double the figure from four years earlier. Where did all these people come from? Bill asked. Were they really all Iowans? The Obama campaign must have cheated, he said, must have bussed in supporters from Illinois.
Hillary had been worried about that possibility for weeks; now she egged her husband on. Bill’s right, she said. We need to investigate cheating.
It’s a rigged deal, Bill groused.
On Obama’s Iowa win (p. 8):
The triumph of Barack Obama, the humbling of Hillary Clinton, and the evisceration of John Edwards made January 3, 2008, a night for the history books. It was one of those rare moments in political life in which the world shifts on its axis–and everyone is watching.
On the stable of the Democratic presidential probables in 2004 (p. 16):
[Top Democrats] were in a panic about the party’s extant crop of candidates: [John] Kerry was in single digits in the polls and was so broke he would have to lend his campaign money; Dick Gephardt was past his sell-by date, John Edwards was an empty suit, Joe Lieberman was a retread. The only one catching on was former Vermont governor Howard Dean, whom the party bigwigs saw as too hot, too left, and too weak to stand a chance in a general election.
On then-senator Obama (p. 25):
He could come across as cocky, that was for sure–and not just to people outside his circle. He was smarter than the average bear, not to mention the average politician, and he not only know it but wanted to make sure that everyone else knew it, too. In meetings with his aides, he exerted control over the conversation by interrupting whoever was talking. “Look,” he would say–it was his favorite interjection, almost a tic–and then be off to the races, reframing the point, extending it, claiming ownership of it. “Who’s idea was that?” was another of his favorites, employed with cheery boastfulness whenever something he’d previously proposed had come up roses.
Then-senator Obama on the senate (p. 28):
“It’s basically the same as Springfield”–the Illinois capital where he had toiled in the state senate– “except the average age in Springfield is forty-two and in Washington it’s sixty-two. Other than that, it the same bulls***.”
On the attitude at Hopefund, Obama’s political action committee (p. 32):
The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before. Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: “Black Jesus.”
How Bill Clinton’s not-so-private personal life threatened Hillary’s run (p. 34, 50):
And then there was this other thing, which threatened to create something closer to the worst of circumstances. The other thing was Bill–more specifically his personal life, about which rumors were running rampant. Not since the Lewinsky era had they been more pervasive, the topic of tittering in every quadrant of the Democratic Establishment from New York to Boston to Los Angeles. And nowhere was the scuttlebutt flowing more freely than in Washington.
Over lunch one afternoon that summer with a Democratic senator to whom he was close, John McCain exclaimed, “What the h*** is Bill Clinton doing to Hillary?” [emphasis in original]
Hillary wasn’t in complete denial about the perils of the situation, however. She had seen the damage that Bill’s bimbo eruptions could inflict and knew that his imputed peccadilloes were among the gravest potential impediments to her reaching the White House. Clinton turned to two aides she trusted with the most intimate matters…[They] formed a war room within a war room inside Hillaryland, dedicated to managing the threat posed by Bill’s libido. [Cheryl] Mills, the lawyer, handled delicate matters where attorney-client privilage might prove useful; Solis Doyle was in charge of the political dimension; and [Howard] Wolfson worked the media side of the equation.
Next post, Excerpts Part 2.