Saturday, January 30, 2010

Spinning my previous post

OK, I've tempered my enthusiasm for Game Change. I still think it is a great read, after all, I plowed through it in about three days, but I think the arguments of the haters have merit. I'll start with my complaints.

Where is the Republican story? The book is 436 pages long and the discussion about the Republican race starts at 271. In that last section, there is still plenty of coverage about the Obama campaign, so there is very little to say about McCain and his adversaries. Some of the complaints about the book, that is about anonymous score settling and that it is about gossip, are spot on with the Republican story. Giuliani appears and then disappears in a short set of pages. To be fair, the GOP race lacked the drama and tension of the ongoing Obama/Clinton fight, but there is just so little here. We don't learn much about Palin other than the McCain staff didn't like her and that she was maybe less aware of global affairs than we already knew.

Why did Obama win? It would have been nice to get more focus on why the authors thought Obama won. You can infer that Obama had the only campaign that wasn't a disaster. The series of mistakes by the Clinton and McCain teams are well laid out, but was there something positive that Obama's team did?

Can we avoid the cynicism? This is more of a meta comment. The view of the book is often cynical. Obama could get away with things Clinton couldn't because they didn't know how to deal with a black candidate. Team Obama ran into similar problems when they first faced Palin. It is a little dispiriting though to read how little issues and policies seem to matter in elections.

OK, now that I complained, what about the good stuff. Despite all I have said, this is still an entertaining, salacious and often sympathetic look at our prominent politicians. In this way, it reminds me quite a bit of Harrison's Salisbury study of the Mao and Deng era, the New Emperors, an out of print book that someone is offering for $99,999 (it's good, but not that good).

All the nasty details are here, including the terrible acts of Edwards and his attempt to somehow stay ahead of the news long enough to land a role in the new Dem administration. You see how much these people often disliked each other. This makes it all the more fascinating when they become public allies, as the Clintons did with the Obamas.

The central story of the book is the Obama-Clinton relationship. It would be a stronger book if the GOP story was simply left out and told only in relation to Obama and Clinton. Hillary, to my mind, is the most sympathetic person here. Ferociously driven and apparently hard to have as a boss, she appears to be what we want in a politician, a strong believer in her issues and in getting things done.

Her story in the book is tragic. She sees her dreams crushed for reasons she cannot fully comprehend and then does the right thing for the party and the country by supporting and then joining the Obama Team. The book end with Obama's reaching out to Hillary to become Secretary of State, something she did not want to do. I, for one, found their rapprochement touching and thought it helped dispel the slightly dirty feeling from the dirty stories and the sense that politics is just about winning.


Adam said...

I went to buy that New Emperor book but the $3.99 shipping really kills that deal for me.

Tripp said...

Seriously man, I will spend right up to $100K, but not one penny over.