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Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetimeby John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Synopses & Reviews
"This shit would be really interesting if we weren't in the middle of it."
— Barack Obama, September 2008
In 2008, the presidential election became blockbuster entertainment. Everyone was watching as the race for the White House unfolded like something from the realm of fiction. The meteoric rise and historic triumph of Barack Obama. The shocking fall of the House of Clinton — and the improbable resurrection of Hillary as Obama's partner and America's face to the world. The mercurial performance of John McCain and the mesmerizing emergence of Sarah Palin. But despite the wall-to-wall media coverage of this spellbinding drama, remarkably little of the real story behind the headlines has yet been told.
In Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, two of the country's leading political reporters, use their unrivaled access to pull back the curtain on the Obama, Clinton, McCain, and Palin campaigns. How did Obama convince himself that, despite the thinness of his résumé, he could somehow beat the odds to become the nation's first African American president? How did the tumultuous relationship between the Clintons shape — and warp — Hillary's supposedly unstoppable bid? What was behind her husband's furious outbursts and devastating political miscalculations? Why did McCain make the novice governor of Alaska his running mate? And was Palin merely painfully out of her depth — or troubled in more serious ways?
Game Change answers those questions and more, laying bare the secret history of the 2008 campaign. Heilemann and Halperin take us inside the Obama machine, where staffers referred to the candidate as "Black Jesus." They unearth the quiet conspiracy in the U.S. Senate to prod Obama into the race, driven in part by the fears of senior Democrats that Bill Clinton's personal life might cripple Hillary's presidential prospects. They expose the twisted tale of John Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter, the truth behind the downfall of Rudy Giuliani, and the doubts of those responsible for vetting Palin about her readiness for the Republican ticket — along with the McCain campaign staff's worries about her fitness for office. And they reveal how, in an emotional late-night phone call, Obama succeeded in wooing Clinton, despite her staunch resistance, to become his secretary of state.
Based on hundreds of interviews with the people who lived the story, Game Change is a reportorial tour de force that reads like a fast-paced novel. Character driven and dialogue rich, replete with extravagantly detailed scenes, this is the occasionally shocking, often hilarious, ultimately definitive account of the campaign of a lifetime.
"Though this book focuses on personal matters, not policy concerns, and though some of what will be its most talked about passages fall into the realm of gossip and reflect the views of chatty and, in some cases, bitter, regretful or spin-conscious aides, the volume does leave the reader with a vivid, visceral sense of the campaign and a keen understanding of the paradoxes and contingencies of history." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Book News Annotation:
In this narrative account of the 2008 presidential election, top-level journalists Heilemann and Halperin take readers inside the Obama machine, where staffers referred to Obama as "the Black Jesus." The book explores the impact of the Clintons' relationship on Hillary's campaign, and delves into the reasons behind McCain's decision to make Palin his running mate. It reveals the truth behind John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter, and explains how Obama convinced Hillary to become his secretary of state. Heilemann is a national political correspondent and columnist for New York magazine. Halperin is senior political analyst for Time magazine. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From two of the best political reporters in the country comes the gripping inside story of the historic 2008 presidential election.
“Its one of the best books on politics of any kind Ive read. For entertainment value, I put it up there with Catch 22.” —The Financial Times
“It transports you to a parallel universe in which everything in the National Enquirer is true….More interesting is what we learn about the candidates themselves: their frailties, egos and almost super-human stamina.” —The Financial Times
“I cant put down this book!” —Stephen Colbert
Game Change is the New York Times bestselling story of the 2008 presidential election, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, two of the best political reporters in the country. In the spirit of Richard Ben Cramers What It Takes and Theodore H. Whites The Making of the President 1960, this classic campaign trail book tells the defining story of a new era in American politics, going deeper behind the scenes of the Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin campaigns than any other account of the historic 2008 election.
From one of the most respected investigative journalists in Washington, pulling from unparalleled sources, comes this revelatory look at the Obama administration's internal workings, showing the fractures, competing cliques, and, ultimately, the deepest divides within the president's own mind as he has struggled but failed to define national security policy differently than his predecessor.
Is Barack Obama an idealist or a ruthless pragmatist? He vowed to close Guantánamo, put an end to coercive interrogation and military tribunals, and restore American principles of justice, yet in his first term he has backtracked on each of these promises, ramping up the secret war of drone strikes and covert operations. Behind the scenes, wrenching debates between hawks and doves—those who would kill versus those who would capture—have repeatedly tested the very core of the president’s identity.
Top investigative reporter Dan Klaidman has spoken to dozens of sources to piece together a riveting Washington story packed with revelations. As the president’s inner circle debated secret programs, new legal frontiers, and the disjuncture between principles and down-and-dirty politics, Obama vacillated, sometimes lashed out, and spoke in lofty tones while approving a mounting toll of assassinations and kinetic-war operations. Klaidman’s fly-on-the-wall reporting reveals who has his ear, how key national security decisions are really made, and whether or not President Obama has lived up to the promise of candidate Obama. Readers making up their minds about him during the 2012 election year will turn to Kill or Capture to decide.
“[An] important book.” — Steve Coll, The New Yorker
“Klaidman . . . [was] clearly given extraordinary access to key players in the administration . . . Provide[s] scintillating details.” — Washington Post
How has President Obama waged the war on terror? As lawyer-in-chief, he promised to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and engaged his inner circle in wrenching debates over the price of liberty and security. As commander-in-chief, he has become a decisive and lethal warrior, dealing out drone strikes and death sentences to suspected terrorists around the world. Daniel Klaidman reveals Obama’s struggle to balance high-minded idealism and hard-headed politics as it plays out behind closed doors from the Oval Office and the Justice Department to the Situation Room and the CIA. Based on hundreds of interviews with men and women throughout the White House and the national security establishment, Kill or Capture is a startling new portrait of our forty-fourth president.
“A fascinating book . . . Lays bare the human dimension of the wrenching national security decisions that have to be made.” — Tina Brown, NPR
About the Author
John Heilemann is the national political correspondent and columnist for New York magazine. An award-winning journalist and the author of Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era, he is a former staff writer for The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Mark Halperin is editor-at-large and senior political analyst for Time magazine. He is the author of The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President and the coauthor of The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008. He has covered six presidential elections, including during his decade as the political director for ABC News. He lives in Manhattan.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters ix
A Note on Sources xiii
The Promise 13
Where the Fuck Is bin Laden? 37
Torture Debates and Murder Boards 65
Escape from Gitmo 93
Kill or Capture 117
How Not to Try a Terrorist 145
The Christmas Gift 173
From Warfare to Lawfare 199
“The President Is Anguished” 225
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