Game Change – John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

As primary season kicks into high gear and 2012 is just a few months away, reading Game Change, a book about the 2008 election, could not have been a more timely decision. I had been told by folks who have read it before me that it might change my opinion of the way the election went and in ways it certainly did. This book was compiled through numerous lengthy interviews by the two authors who are really more like journalists — although it certainly reads like a novel.

Game Change covers the entire spectrum — from the first seeds of thought in Obama’s mind of running for President to Rudy Giuliani’s rise and fall, to Hillary and Bill’s complex journey, to John Edwards’ scandals, to John McCain’s ebbs and flows, and finally the making of Sarah Palin.

The book literally captures every moment in a dazzling array of perspectives from patriotism to egotism to the truly brutal tendencies of human nature when cornered. It will make you lose respect and leave you disappointed in whoever you might have put on a pedestal in 2008’s cast of characters. I think that is the taste in my mouth that I was most surprised to encounter.  Both sides were guilty of dirty politics and a lack of integrity. I know that is something we are supposed to expect as voters and citizens, but I can’t help upholding the naive perspective that maybe it will be different this time…

All of that being said, the book is a must read in my opinion. You need to know what happened in 2008 as we prepare for 2012. The book really helps to contextualize how the falling economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan molded the election, something that will again be important in 2012 as we face a potential double dip recession and wars still being fought in the Middle East. I think the best way to be a good citizen and voter is to be informed and this book certainly is a good way to do it. For the Republicans, you will be able to more accurately assess what qualities will succeed in your candidate in 2012 and for the Democrats, you will see how you can support your party and your campaign by learning the weaknesses the Obama campaign revealed in the book.

I think one thing that really took me aback was how much Sarah Palin has transformed since she was tapped to be the veep candidate just one week before the Republican National Convention. According to the book, at the time she didn’t know what the Fed was, thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and shriveled under the scrutiny of Katie Couric and a debate with Joe Biden. And look at her now — it is an amazing difference.

All in all, this was a fascinating read. I have no idea how accurate the accounts are and I know people on both sides of the political spectrum take issue with it — but I think it is a crucial read for Americans, particularly with the weight of 2012 on our shoulders.

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