Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Game Change

I finally got around to reading Game Change, the book heralded as the inside story on the 2008 Presidential Campaign. The book benefited from a lot of buzz when it was released but I'm glad I waited a year plus to pick it up. We are right in the middle of the early stages of the next presidential campaign so the reading was timely as a look back. The book did illustrate how vacuous these campaigns are. There is no off-season in American politics now. The campaign and the associated media coverage is another form of entertainment. Another way to waste time between NFL games.

At the same, reading the book now and having two and a half years to look at Obama's body of work as President...something I wouldn't have been able to do had I read the book when it first came out solidified my view that our politicians really don't have much of a plan to deal with the numerous problems we face now.

It ends up, I'm even more cynical now after having read the book then I was before and that is saying something. I shouldn't be so naive but Game Change makes it obvious that the only thing serious about the presidential candidates is their "personal brand" and the public perception of that brand. The candidates, whether Obama, Hillary, McCain or John Edwards are bereft of any real solutions. It's all about the brand and all about them.

John Heilemann and Mark Halperin write a book in the Bob Woodward model. There are no footnotes, but the reader is privy to many closed door meetings and numerous anecdotes as to what a candidate was "thinking" at particular moments during the campaign. I have a problem with the integrity and accuracy of the information presented. For example there is a story recounted on page 17 of a 2004 Hillary Clinton conversation with a Reuters reporter at the NY State Fair... in Albany. The problem is that the NY State Fair is in Syracuse, there is no State Fair in Albany. It might seem like nit-picking, but how much can I trust the accuracy of closed-door dialogue and unaccredited sources when something I can check is just flat out wrong? It makes me wonder how much of the story is just a fictionalized account.

Reading Game Change didn't help this particular 2008 Obama voter be any more enthusiastic about supporting him this time around. Hope and Change are turning out to be nothing more than a neat advertising pitch.

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