Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Game Change" by Heilemann and Halperin: A Review

For those who were paying a close attention to the last presidential election, Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime offers a chance to go over everything that happened in 2007 and 2008, leading us into the Obama Presidency. The authors did an incredible amount of research in order to reconstruct the events of the recent presidential campaigns.

In order to make the book more reasonable, Heilemann and Halperin chose to write it in a style that is a lot more conversational than academic. At first, the readers might feel put off by the authors tendency to offer guesses as to what the presidential candidates and members of their entourage felt and thought at any given moment. Statements like "'Fuck you!' thought Hillary when she heard the unwelcome news" do sound a little funny. However, if one doesn't get too hung up on such little flights of writerly fancy, the book ends up being very enjoyable. Even I, who followed these elections very closely, discovered many things I never knew from the book.

What I really liked about the book is that the authors are so fascinated by the facts that they never bother to infuse them with any personal political agenda. They describe the struggle between Clinton and Obama in a lot of detail and at length. At no point, however, was I able to guess which candidate the authors preferred. The authors leave you a lot of space to draw your own conclusions. All they do is provide a lot of data to facilitate that.

The chatty style Heilemann and Halperin chose for their book often leads them to a host of linguistic infelicities, such as "the place he were at." This is, of course, annoying but the book is still worth reading. The 2008 presidential elections were groundbreaking in a variety of ways. In these elections, illusion defeated reality every step of the way. Before, one could talk about spin overshadowing politics. Now, spin has become politics. It is crucial that we uderstand what went on during these elections because otherwise we will not be able to comprehend what is going on in the political world any more.

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