The Juiciest Revelations In "Game Change"

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"Game Change," the long-awaited and very gossipy chronicle of the 2008 campaign by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, is chock full of revelations that are bound to stir the folks who live within ten miles of the Beltway -- and perhaps even reverberate beyond Washington.

The book doesn't officially go on sale until next Tuesday. The authors are slated to appear on 60 Minutes Sunday to preview it. I found it available for purchase at a Washington, D.C. bookstore tonight.

Among the more fascinating items:

On page 37, a remark, said "privately" by Sen. Harry Reid, about Barack Obama's racial appeal. Though Reid would later say that he was neutral in the presidential race, the truth, the authors write, was that his

encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a "light-skinned" African American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as he said privately.  Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

E-mails sent late Friday to Reid staffers were not immediately answered. (Update: Reid apologized.)

The authors write on page 50 about the "war room within a war room" that Hillary Clinton put together to deal with questions about her husband's "libido."  The circle of trust included media strategist Howard Wolfson, lawyer Cheryl Mills and confidant Patti Solis Doyle. 

The war room within a war room dismissed or discredited much of the gossip floating around, but not all of it. The stories about one woman were more concrete, and after some discreet fact-finding, the group concluded that they were true: that BIll was indeed having an affair -- and not a frivolous one-night stand but a sustained romantic relationship.  .... For months, thereafter, the war room within a war room braced for the explosion, which her aides knew could come at any moment.

The authors do not identify the woman.

I don't want to give away the whole book... but I would be remiss if I did not point to the chapters about the unbelievably dysfunctional husband and wife team of John and Elizabeth Edwards.  Not only, it turns out, did many senior Edwards staffer suspect that John was having an affair, several confronted John Edwards about it, and came away believing the rumors.  At least three campaign aides resigned because of their knowledge of the affair well before the national media picked up on those early National Enquirer stories.

And John and Elizabeth (who the book says was known to Edwards insiders as "abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazywoman") fought, in front of staffers, about the affair. The authors describe a moment where Elizabeth, in a such a state of fury, deliberately tears her blouse in the parking lot of a Raleigh airport terminal, "exposing herself. 'Look at me," she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground." (That's page 142.)   (This was in October, by the way, well before the media took the reports of the Hunter affair seriously.)

About Obama himself the book includes plenty of observations about his manner and temperament, many astute and some original, though no earth-shattering revelations. The chapters about John and Cindy McCain's relationship are fascinating; the coverage of McCain's selection of Sarah Palin is mostly familiar ground.  There are insights about the way the Bush White House perceived the McCain campaign, although they can be summed up as: not very well. 

There are telling anecdotes, such as when Ed Goeas, a pollster for Rudy Giuliani, responds to Judith Giuliani's query about how she could best help his campaign: "First of all, you're his third wife. What you should try to be is humble." (Page 290). 

Political scientists aren't going to like this book, because it portrays politics as it is actually lived by the candidates, their staff and the press, which is to say -- a messy, sweaty, ugly, arduous competition between flawed human beings -- a universe away from numbers and probabilities and theories.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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