'Double Down: Game Change 2012' Is All Spin, No Substance
Heilemann and Halperin - 11/4/2013
November 6, 2013

If you're thinking about buying Double Down: Game Change 2012 to indulge yourself in a weekend read about all the juicy 2012 Presidential campaign details, save the money and just read what other people are writing.

Most of the stories told in the book have already been told via leaks to the press in real time, or straight up interviews. The book has something for the hater in us all, whether the focus is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Who doesn't know the first debate was a disaster for Obama, or that Romney was blindsided by the infamous 47 percent recording?

Even more than the first book, Halperin and Heilemann put their own spin on everything, including that 47 percent moment. They spent pages setting up the entire incident with a series of excuses. Romney was tired, host Marc Leder was sleazy, the people were entitled rich folks, blah blah blah. They minimize the comments, and then go on to call Scott Prouty, the source, a "disgruntled bartender."

Evidently they didn't bother to do any research on Prouty, or they might have realized he fell into a random situation where he set the video simply because he happened to be in a room where a presidential candidate was speaking. The story is right there on Mother Jones for anyone who might be interested.

Details like this, shaded with the authors' own editorial bent, are what undermines the entire book. As someone who was watching the campaign from beginning to end, distorting someone's motive for what they did means I don't trust anything else that doesn't square up with what I know. There are plenty of occasions like that.

If you want the gist of the book without ponying up the twelve bucks for the e-book version, I recommend a visit to Daily Kos, where you can read about Mitt's senior advisor vomiting with stress during Clint Eastwood's "empty chair" routine. There's this Washington Post list of the top 8 tidbits from the book, too, though I disagree with their list ranking.

In the end, the book is a whole lot of pages of insider gossip which does nothing to illuminate readers about why the election was won or lost. In that, I nod my head alongside Salon's Alex Pareene, who had exactly the same reaction I did:

The only thing wrong with these “Game Change” books, besides the cliché titles, horrific prose, virulent sexism, heavy reliance on and implicit endorsement of the viewpoints and biases of plainly self-interested anonymous sources — OK, the primaryproblem with these “Game Change” books, then — is that people take them seriously. News anchors and pundits tell everyone that these books explain how or why a politician won or lost an election, or how they nearly lost. These books tell funny stories about famous people.

Here are some of the reasons why Barack Obama won reelection: because the Republican Party and conservative ideas are unpopular, because the economy was improving and the president’s approval ratings were decent, because incumbents win more often than not, and because his campaign was better at identifying, motivating and turning out voters. Here are some things that had very little to do with the president’s victory: His rebound performance in the second debate, Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, and his ability to tolerate golfing with Bill Clinton.

The book will appeal to the same people who pick up the National Enquirer at the supermarket every week. For those who might be mildly interested enough to browse that publication while waiting in line, just read the reviews and watch Halperin pimp the book all over the airwaves, like he does in this video. That's all you'll need to know what the book is about.

Five hundred pages of Villager gossip is tiring -- and old. It speaks to an all too common vapidity and banal approach to an important election that was about policy, and not whether or not Chris Christie had a hissy fit because the vetting he got indicated too many pitfalls to justify him as a running-mate.

If, on the other hand, you give a damn about Bill Daley being a lone ranger with regard to Biden as running mate, or whether Jon Huntsman tipped off Harry Reid on Mitt's taxes, or who Mitt liked and who he hated, or whether Obama and Bill Clinton are really friends or frenemies, then by all means spend the cash. Otherwise, wait until the made-for-TV movie comes out.

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