You Can't Blame Them


Hoping this one escapes the scalpel of Redstate’s censors, I submit the following:

Some of the few members of the media not currently sifting through past Rush Limbaugh transcripts in search of hints of misogyny have devoted themselves to commenting, either wryly or with a raised eyebrow of perplexity, on the news that neither former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin nor Senator John McCain (R-AZ) plan to watch the much-ballyhooed HBO docudrama “Game Change.”

Having read the book which served as the basis for the televised stew of half-truth and innuendo, I’m not sure I understand why anyone would be surprised or confused by this news. As a public service to those tempted to either watch the show or read the book, I submit for your edification a review I wrote when the book was still news in the literate world.

The shrewd prerelease leaking of details about

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s fondness for archaic racial terms has helped make John Heileman and Mark Halperin’s book, “Game Change,” a runaway best seller. Ostensibly a behind-the-scenes account of the 2008 Presidential campaign, the book reads like a novel, and manages to hold the reader’s interest to the very end, despite the fact that the ending was not in question.

The authors stated in their introduction that they were aiming for “the ground that lies between history and journalism.” If that ground is a pastiche of rumor and gossip, they have succeeded.

Heileman, national political correspondent and columnist for “New York” magazine, and Halperin, an editor and senior political analyst for “Time” magazine, relied on “deep background” interviews with junior and senior campaign staff and some of the candidates themselves to unleash the most dismaying bout of bloodletting and score-settling since the Rwanda genocide.

Sifting through this stack of soiled laundry and titillation, it was hard to escape the conclusion that if they would raise their sights from trivial politicians to really important Reality TV stars and sports celebrities, the authors might be able to land reporting gigs at “The National Enquirer” or even TMZ.com.

While Reid’s plantation patter led the daily news feeds, it didn’t begin to convey the scope and significance of the book’s revelations. From Elizabeth Edwards ripping her blouse off in an airport departure lounge and screaming, “Look at me!” to Sarah Palin rocking back and forth in a catatonic state while surrounded by heaps of clothing and half-eaten pizzas, the authors seemed to have as their goal the utter denigration of every public figure, save one.

Although Barack Obama came through nearly unscathed, in the interest of balance the authors were obligated to note that even he was flawed. For example, at times he had a tendency to defer to his advisors, even when he knew a better way to do things. Plus, he smokes.

If occasionally Obama unleashed a curse word or two, that’s okay. That’s how political leaders convey their gritty connection with the world. In fact, with the exception of Palin, it seems no national figure is capable of expressing the simplest emotion without larding it with a slew of F-bombs. Nobody could top John McCain, though. He once proved himself to be a potty-mouth Titan by unleashing a string of ten consecutive epithets, reducing his wife, Cindy, to tears. The authors did a nice job of using capital letters and punctuation to capture the eloquent modulation of McCain’s curses.

Somewhere deep inside this supermarket checkout counter work lies the kernel of relevance. The 2008 Presidential election did represent a game change. It was the first time the national media, on a wholesale basis, abdicated their responsibility to inform the public of public truths. Though rarely impartial, they had never before so blatantly chosen sides, going so far as to suppress information which reflected badly on their chosen candidate.

While not completely ignoring it, allowing Hillary Clinton and McCain to complain about the unlevel playing field, the authors, as two of the leading figures in the relevant media, declined to discuss this most significant element of change.

The book is highly readable, especially for those who like their revenge served hot and slimy, but it is a far cry from what has passed for political analysis in the past. Its only true historical value may lie in its depiction of a nation which has forgotten how to govern itself.

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