Book Check: "Double Down: Game Change 2012"
Tell Me About the Author(s): Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Both are dialed-in political journalists, who work in print and on TV. They are both the embodiment of the mainstream media. Note, this does not, Fox News' best efforts aside, mean they are liberals.
Indeed, one of the authors (Halperin), got suspended from his TV gig for calling President Obama a "dick" on air. Whoops. Instead, as can be seen through their book, they are -- and this is the mainstream media's cultural milieu -- more interested in conflict!, gaffes, the psychoanalysis of candidates and their cadre of political consultants, and more than a dash of gossipy tid-bits. So ideologues they are not. On which more below.
And the Book is About What? You may heard about Game Change, the book and the subsequent HBO movie, where these two authors did a deep-dive into the Obama-McCain election battle. The material on Palin from that book was worth the price of admission alone. The book was successful, so the authors did it again: Obama-Romney 2012.
The first section of the book deals with Obama's struggles and victories in his first term leading up to the 2012 election season. The second part dissects the GOP nomination contest with each character (e.g., Herman Cain, Bachmann, Pawlenty, etc.) getting a supporting role to Romney's lead. The final third of the book details the contest of between Obama and Romney.
Should I Buy It? Yes, if you are a political junkie. Yes, if you have more than a passing interest in politics. If you couldn't give a hoot about politics, this is not the book for you. This book -- and its 2008 predecessor -- are like political pornography for political junkies. And I mean that both as praise and pejoratively.
First, the good: the book gives you a behind-the-scenes look into politics like you simply aren't going to get most other places (all due respect to Bob Woodward). If you're going to buy the book, I don't want this review to be a spoiler alert. But please know you won't be disappointed. You actually get the feeling of being in the room when the revelation of the 47 percent video hit the media, when Obama bombed the first debate. You get to see who likes who (John McCain thinks everybody is an asshole... you would not believe the amount of vulgarity, but then again, you might).
But that ties into the bad. Anyone who studies politics seriously -- and, unfortunately, this does not include most political journalists (like the authors) -- knows that "gaffes" (Romney was rather prone), and "big" moments like Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention do not really matter electorally. And it is a testament to the mainstream media's shallowness that it cares more about titillating viewers and the "horse race" (who's up? who's down?) than attempting to actually report news on the policies the candidates are supporting. So, yes, much like pornography itself, this book, and the media culture that generated it, gives us a distorted view of reality. So, enjoy it, but remember, it's a guilty pleasure.