Posted by: Jeanie F | March 8, 2010

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin


Why is political gossip so much more interesting than celebrity gossip? Is it because these men and women of power seem so much larger than life, and we’re fascinated to have an inside peek at the private person behind the public persona? Is it to be reassured that, like us, they really do “put their pants on one leg at a time”? Well, whatever the reason, reading Game Change is both so fascinating AND so horrifying that (1) I couldn’t put it down, but (2) half the time I wished I could read with my eyes covered, the way I watch a good horror movie!

If you’ve only recently come out of a coma or are otherwise one of the few people in the United States who have missed the advance hype of this book, Game Change is exactly what its subtitle promises – an insider look at the 2008 presidential race. We see first the Obama/Clinton/Edwards battle for candidacy, then the almost uncontested McCain bid. From there we learn how the vice presidential running mates were selected, the harrowing ups and downs of the primaries and the races themselves and, finally, the wrap-up.

The authors are no strangers to either politics nor the media. John Heilemann writes for New York Magazine, co-author Mark Halperin for Time. Their insider contacts really give this book its chops, as they profess to have conducted over 300 interviews with more than 200 people. Their inspiration for writing GC was twofold: their belief that this election was “as riveting and historic a spectacle as modern politics has ever produced,” and that, in spite of the massive coverage through 2007-08, “much of the story behind the headlines had not been told.”

The second part of that claim may be a stretch – there isn’t a great deal of new information for anyone who followed the race carefully, other than minor details and the names of unknown members of the campaign support teams. But the first claim – that the campaign was riveting – is borne out by the authors’ strong sense of narrative. While the information may not be new, Heilemann and Halperin have woven a great deal of information together, shown how the pieces fit, and tied it into a cohesive package that helps us understand how and why things happened the way they did.

The players come out looking as we expect – Obama self-assured, perhaps arrogant, but definitely the man in the white hat; McCain insecure, bumbling, but a patriot (I DID hate learning how carelessly he selected his running mate); Palin, a twitchy numbskull; Edwards – well, he’s just a sorry lowlife that I’m embarassed to say was my original front-runner. There are some inside looks at the marriages of the major players and, while some come off looking less-than-sympathetic, I couldn’t help but feel that the demands put upon these people were clearly Herculean and they are – yes, even the Clintons – only human. I can tell you that were my dear husband and I to hit the campaign trail, it’s likely that only one of us would still be standing at the end!

It is due to the authors’ deep knowledge of the subject and talent for writing literary non-fiction that this well-known story was, as they promised, riveting. I know you know how it ends, but read it anyway. It’s well worth it!

Grade: A


  1. Politicians are fascinating, aren’t they? After hearing sooo much about this book, and hearing on most accounts how entertaining it is, I’m really looking forward to reading it and seeing how everyone involved in the election on so many fronts comes across. And the two writers seem perfect fits for writing such a book. Glad to hear you liked it!

  2. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, Lianne! Just plan to read it on a weekend when you have NOTHING else to do, because you won’t want to put it down.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: