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Game Change, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Heilemann and Halperin’s book Game Change (2010) offers an insider’s view of the 2008 Presidential election. The book was published simultaneously in the United States and the United Kingdom. Covering topics that range from the John Edwards sex-scandal to the eventual appointment of Hilary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State, the book offers a dynamic portrayal of the strategies and personalities that shaped this important political race. Many people are probably familiar with the basic events of the campaign but most readers will be surprised by many of the details provided by the book. For example, a late chapter in the book describes how Barack Obama had planned to include Hilary Clinton as a part of his administration from very early on in the campaign. The authors write that “Since the summer, he had been telling Jarrett and Nesbitt that he wanted to find a role for Clinton in his administration” (Heilemann & Halperin, 430). This will surprise readers who, simply by seeing the outer-events of the campaign, might assume that Obama and Clinton were rivals who had little or no rapport for one another or respect.

Obviously, since the summer of 2008 was the time when Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama were most tenaciously locked in a struggle for the Democratic nomination, the idea that Obama had planned to make Clinton a part of his cabinet even during the struggle, indicates important aspects of his character and decision-making processes. Insights such as these are the real meat of the book. The general events of the campaign form a foundation on which “insider” details are built in order to show both the political and human dimensions of presidential politics at the highest and most serious levels. The reason that insights such as the one mentioned above are so important is because they remind the reader that even at the highest levels of political ambition, certain human factors are still in play. This observation extends not only to the candidates and their staff, but to the political strategists and “handlers’ that are so essential to creating the kind of campaigns that have become expected in twenty-first century America.  The way in which the authors probe the interaction between the personal and political ambitions of the major players in the campaign provides insight into the way in which political campaigns challenge and shape those who run for political office.

One of the most interesting section of the book deals with the vice-presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin. In this part of the book, a lot of insight into Palin’s emotional and personal response to the pressure of the campaign is shown.  In addition to being unprepared for the intellectual and policy challenges that were associated with running for office at this high of a level, Palin is described, in the book, as being very difficult to prep or train for the  events and interviews that she faced as a candidate. The book describes that way in which McCain’s aides began to doubt Palin’s capacity to deal with the intellectual and political issues of the campaign. The book also describes the ways in which Palin tried to fend off her own advisers. In one instance, the authors report that Palin’s handlers were dismayed at the facts that Palin failed to understand the reason why North Korea and South Korea were separate countries. Another mistaken belief that was held by Palin was that she thought that Iraq was the country that had been responsible for the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The fact that Palin “flubbed” her interview on ABC news is generally well-known. However, many people are probably unaware of the fact that Palin’s political advisers and handlers had expended a great deal of time, effort, and energy to try to educate her and give her pointers prior to the interview.

The true irony that is revealed in the book is that Palin, who was disinterested in learning maters of policy, also seemed to reject the superficial handling of her candidacy in regard to make-up, clothes, and personal demeanor. This stands as a contradiction to the popular perception that she, personally, advocated squandering campaign money on clothes and her personal experience. Palin’s story is only one thread that is recounted in the book, but it is an important thread and one that shows the degree to which modern political campaigns have become exercises in media manipulation, rather than studies in political ideals and policy. After reading the ways in which Palin rejected even the most rudimentary levels of knowledge, many readers of Game Change will probably feel justifiably frightened about the substantive lack of knowledge and bearing that was associated with a political figure that held so much influence and potential power as Palin. By contrast, many readers will take heart and comfort form the portrayal of President Obama in the book.

In regard to President Obama’s personal temperament and political judgment, the book offers a portrait of a man who considered all sides of an issue before making a decision, allowed the influence of mother people’s opinions to help shape his own decision-making processes, and who studies with true diligence the questions of policy and ideology that were central to his political campaign and to the future of the country. The portrayal of Barack Obama in the book is certainly sympathetic, but it is also substantiated by evidence and facts. The same can be said about the portrayal of the other major players who are describes in the book. The authors took great care to present a balanced picture of events and the people who shaped them without offering “editorials” on the nature of meaning of the events. Instead, the book stands as an important piece of investigative journalism. It is important not only because it describes lesser-known details about a highly important race for political office but because nit describes the pressures and challenges that are faced by those who work in the area of presidential politics.

Work Cited

Heileman, John; Halperin, Mark. Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime Harper Publishers. New York, 2010.

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