“Game Change” and why I won’t go into politics

“Game Change” reminded my why I will never go into politics. It mostly recaps the 2008 presidential election with few shocking surprises. About 50 pages in, I was thinking “I’m wasting my time with this. I have a crap memory, but at least I remember all this. It was less than two years ago.”

But it turns out that the book is really about psychology, sociology and some seriously fucked up people (there are no shortage of F-bombs in the book — a review without one or two would not do the book justice). The book focuses on relationships, rather than the daily grind of politics or the soundbites, strategery and polls. Pretty much every politician has a really dysfunctional personal life and marital relationship. The Obamas may have the healthiest marriage, but by no means smell like roses by the end of the book. Michelle Obama didn’t really want Barack to jump into the all-consuming circus of campaigning. Also, the grueling campaign schedule seems even harder and nastier than actual governance, even with Obama’s overly ambitious schedule and agenda.

Everyone else comes out looking worse. As one of the authors noted in an interview, even the Clintons’ relationship seems healthy compared to the John and Elizabeth Edwards (the book sullies Elizabeth’s saintly image), the McCains and the Palins.

Oh, and don’t get me started on Sarah. I went into the book with a bitter distaste for Palin and her ugly, unproductive style of divisive attack politics. I ended the book questioning her sanity. This passage is about her demeanor and actions in the days leading to the “Can I call ya Joe?” vice presidential debate.

“She wasn’t eating (a few small bites of steak a day, no more). She wasn’t drinking (maybe half a can of Diet Dr. Pepper; no water, ever). She wasn’t sleeping (not much more than a couple hours a night, max). … When her aides tried to quiz her, she would routinely shut down — chin on her chest, arms folded, eyes cast to the floor, speechless and motionless, lost in what those around her described as a kind of catatonic stupor. … They began discussing a new and threatening possibility: that Palin was mentally unstable.”

The book also shows her taking her hypocrisy to another level. While she was the McCain campaign’s designated mudslinger, she couldn’t deal with any mud thrown in her direction.

“She became maniacal about monitoring her media coverage; she was constantly channel-surfing and blogosphere mining, and when she came across any mention that was less than flattering, she insisted that her staff try to have it corrected.”

I can only imagine her reaction to this book. I know. I’m another left-wing blogger ranting about Sarah, but I think it’s significant to understand her because she remains a major force in politics, and is the defacto leader of a influential and growing movement.

To be fair, Bill Clinton also shows moments of near insanity in the book (and all of them have to be a little crazy to run for president).

I also have to start wondering at this point if the McCains and Clintons were right in some ways about Obama.

“McCain’s view of Obama was firmly fixed and strikingly similar to the one that Hillary held: Obama was a lightweight, a line-cutter, a go-along-to-get-alonger who pretended to be a man of independence.”

Sounds like the guy who ceded health care to the dysfunctional Congress, and caved on his progressive promises before the battle even started.

Finally, as I alluded to earlier, all these supposedly pious and church-going politicians sure say “fuck” a lot. If I were a Christian, I would take offense that any of them claimed to be in my club rather than demand that they profess their membership.

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