The best description we’ve read about Game Change, the new 2008 campaign book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, comes from the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder: “chock full of revelations that are bound to stir the folks who live within ten miles of the Beltway.”
We live about three thousand miles away. Calculate accordingly.
The book, or at least the snippets we’ve seen so far — official publication is Tuesday — is not without value to political caricaturists. Moments like these might come in handy:
- Bill Clinton, lobbying Ted Kennedy to endorse Hillary, said of Obama, “a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.” (This was politely called the “experience” issue at the time.)
- Hillary initially planned to turn down the offer of Secretary of State, for fear of Bubba Eruptions: “You know I can’t control him, and at some point he’ll be a problem.” (That was on everybody’s mind.)
- Harry Reid noticed early that Obama could fare better than Jesse, thanks to being “light-skinned” and not speaking with a “Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” (You’ll recall African-Americans fearing Obama wasn’t black enough, as well as his ability to channel MLK cadences when needed.)
But despite the welcome detail, most of what we’re hearing isn’t new, nor revelatory, nor even particularly interesting. We already knew the Democratic primaries were vicious; we knew Sarah Palin’s greatest achievement was reading somebody else’s speech off a teleprompter; and while we certainly didn’t know what John Edwards was doing in his spare time, he only had a bit part to begin with, and lost on the merits. (Edwards was no Gary Hart, at least in terms of effect.)
In short: the details we needed to know about 2008, we knew at the time — that time being a year or two ago, depending on anecdote.
There’s nothing more dull than an old soap opera, which is what many of the details amount to — we just can’t work up steam over reports that Joe Biden was simultaneously kept on a leash and kept at a distance. Not when Chicago got there first:
Roxie: It’ll never work.
Velma: Why not?
Roxie: Because I hate you.
Velma: There’s only one business where that’s no problem at all.
Make that two businesses.
But there is one anecdote we’ve heard — not in the book — that truly intrigues us, a moment that shows how real power works:
In the fall of 2008, Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, went to his boss, Rupert Murdoch, with two complaints: he had heard that Mr. Murdoch was considering endorsing Barack Obama for president in The New York Post, and he had read a book excerpt in Vanity Fair suggesting that Mr. Murdoch was sometimes embarrassed by the right-leaning Fox News.
Mr. Ailes threatened to quit, a person familiar with the conversation said. Instead, Mr. Murdoch soon rewarded him with a new, more lucrative contract — he made $23 million last year in salary, bonuses and other compensation, more than Mr. Murdoch — and The New York Post endorsed John McCain.
Pack a book with stuff like that — stuff that shows the levers being pulled behind the curtain, not just the gossip — and we might find ourselves really interested. Even a continent away.
The Juiciest Revelations In “Game Change” [Atlantic]
Book: Obama, Biden clashed in ’08 [Politico]