Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the team behind 'Game Change,' chronicle the 2012 presidential election.
Remember all the fun we had last year choosing between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Think of the 4-year-old girl whose YouTube video of her crying over too much “Bronco” Obama and Mitt Romney elicited knowing nods from voters across the nation.Skip to next paragraph
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Yes, it’s time to re-live those not-so-magical days. Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, political writers at Time and New York magazines, respectively, as well as MSNBC talking heads, reprise the formula of gossipy insider tidbits from the various candidates and campaigns that made "Game Change" a bestseller in 2010 and, later, an HBO movie.
"Game Change" told the story of Obama’s unexpected rise to the presidency in 2008 against the duo of Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as the tantalizing tale of how an obscure Alaskan governor named Sarah Palin became the focal point of the Republican ticket despite her role as the running mate and not the nominee.
Double Down lacks Palin as candidate and Obama-Hillary as campaign heavyweight bout, hoping to glean drama from a beleaguered president (“I just don’t know if I can do this,” he tells his inner circle after a poor round of debate prep just weeks before Election Day) and an unintentionally entertaining crop of would-be GOP nominees (Rick Perry and his faulty memory, Herman Cain’s damaging flirtations and questionable “9-9-9” math, Tim Pawlenty and his awful T-Paw nickname, and so on).
Halperin and Heilemann have become brand-name collaborators, generating the kind of resentment that tends to come with the territory. And, in some cases, the authors all but beg for scorn, employing a parade of 50-cent words (“blenched,” “acuminate,” and “repined” among them – Michael Kinsley cataloged the list in much more exhaustive and withering fashion in a recent assessment for The New York Times Book Review) while dropping names, acronyms, and abbreviations in DC-speak bursts. Thus sentences such as this one: “Watching WJC in 2008, BHO thought QED.” Translation: Barack Hussein Obama watched William Jefferson Clinton and thought, “Quad erat demonstradum (which was to be demonstrated).” Well, sure, it’s so obvious.
Then, too, there is the lauding of Washington monuments in the source game. Hello to Bob Barnett, the lawyer whose clients have included WJC, among many others. Halperin and Heilemann note his counsel during the president’s debate prep with this attribution: “Barnett sagely noted.”
To put an exclamation point on the power corridors inhabited by these co-authors, the book closes with a smug set of bold-faced VIP thank-yous worthy of a Vanity Fair-Politico mash-up. Halperin and Heilemann offer their “shout-outs” (When does slang jump the shark? When it’s used in campaign tell-alls) to celebrity chef Mario Batali and New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, to their beloved Ritz-Carltons, to Tom Hanks and “everyone at the HBO juggernaut,” and (sigh) “a panoply of common pals to whom we frequently turn for aid, comfort, or cocktails.” How did their favorite single-malt scotch get left off the list? Perhaps it's earmarked for the 2016 campaign book.
They also like to refer to New York as Gotham or Gotham City. Denver is the Mile High City and, well, you get the idea.
And yet, for all these complaints, anyone who enjoys politics will be hard-pressed to resist at least some of the juicy items on display. Sure, you know the final score and you remember at least some of the antics, if not all the details. (How much bloviating did Newt Gingrich do? Did Romney really need that much money to defeat the likes of Rick Santorum?).