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Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Change

John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the authors of Game Change, a look inside the campaigns during the 2008 presidential election, are to be commended on their reportage. Getting this close to the campaigns had to be difficult, given the desire for political figures to maintain their cherished public personas. In time, I suspect that the level of detail as well as the unflattering portraits of several key figures will be an invaluable resource for history buffs to get an idea of what the people who sought the nation’s highest offices were really like.

However, for the present-day reader, especially those who were engaged in the events of 2008, Game Change provides not much more than insider gossip in its slim, scant jaunt down memory lane. Its breathless relation of the collapse of the Clinton and McCain campaigns is hampered by a decided lack of perspective and a curious distance from the relevant issues.

All of that would be fine if Heilemann and Halperin were capable of writing clearly and concisely, but alas they are not. Their prose is repetitive and their constant need to coin cutesy little neologisms is beyond aggravating. (Clinton’s staff is Hillaryland, Obama’s is O-Town, and McCain’s alternately McCainiacs and McCainworld. It’s excruciating.) They also show the shallowness of their effort by resorting to using “ten-dollar” vocabulary words in unnecessary and unhelpful ways. (Parlous instead of perilous, chary as opposed to wary, peccadilloes where affairs would be palatable. This kind of thing seems like a crutch for those insecure about their intellect.)

Ultimately, the authors of Game Change are successfully mainly in establishing that all this posturing and politicking is really nothing more than a game, both to the reporters chasing every sideshow and to the men and women conducting our nation’s business. Though some figures come off looking better than others (Obama comes off rather well, something that is reassuring or evidence of the media’s kid-gloves treatment, depending on your perspective) Game Change reinforces the idea that only a crazy person would actually want to be President.

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