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PhotobucketMarc Ambinder says "Game Change" the "long-awaited and very gossipy chronicle of the 2008 campaign by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin," has hit the shelves.

Based on Ambinder's review, juicy is putting it mildly. The authors are scheduled for a 60 Minutes segment tomorrow evening.

Among the "revelations" are gossipy claims about GOP and Democratic campaigns. The most explosive center around allegations that during the campaign Bill Clinton

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 Clinton's alleged love interest.

The book alleges fairly sensational gossip about the Giuliani, McCain, and Edwards campaigns, but, according to Ambinder, "no earth-shattering revelations" about the Obama campaign. A relief, I suppose.

I haven't read the book yet (and I doubt I will beyond excerpts on the web), but Ambinder clearly gets off the previously unknown tidbits contained in the book.  Here's his take on gossip from the Edwards campaign centered on October 2007 events:

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 an "abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazywoman") fought, in front of staffers, about the affair.

Ambinder goes on to describe a confrontation between Edwards and his wife in an airport parking lot. Frankly, as a former Edwards supporter, I find the account more depressing than juicy. But that's just me.

About the McCain campaign revelations, Ambinder writes:

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.  

No surprise there.  

It's interesting that Ambinder chose to lead off his piece with an excerpt regarding Harry Reid:

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.

At least, if true, it's no surprise to me as it echoes a perspective that seemed to be floating around in the wake of other old white guy sentiments (see Biden's remarks during the campaign, etc.). It's interesting that Ambinder chose to lead off his review with this excerpt from the book as it pales in comparison with the other inside information.

On the Clinton allegations, Ambinder notes that the campaign put together a "war room within a war room" staffed by Howard Wolfson, lawyer Cheryl Mills and confidant Patti Solis Doyle to deal with questions about Bill Clinton's "libido." Given Solis Doyle's reputation and claims of her lack of competency near the end of the campaign, this certainly brings to mind the controversial and head-scratching decision by the Obama campaign to hire her to work on his vice-presidential search team.

Was hiring Solis Doyle a telegraphed message to Hillary Clinton about her vice-presidential prospects? I guess if Halperin is accurate, such a gesture would have been an automatic signal to Clinton that it wasn't going to happen.

Personally, I found Halperin's campaign coverage pretty hackish and self-aggrandizing.  This book won't change that take. It enlarges it.  What I'm interested in finding out is whether the salacious claims contained in the book are evenly spread to both the GOP and the democratic campaigns. If Ambinder is correct, the McCain and Giuliani revelations are "familiar ground," although the tidbit about Giuliani's staffer responding to Judith Giuliani's inquiry as to how to help the campaign is pretty amusing: "First of all, you're his third wife. What you should try to be is humble." Of course, to Democrats, being married to Rudy is nothing to brag about anyway.

And then, there's timing. The mid-terms are not far off and it remains to be seen as to whether Halperin's book paints the democratic party in general as being deceptive or loose or lacking in moral fiber.

I think I'm going to watch 60 Minutes tomorrow.

Update with a hat tip to mainiac: The Caucus NYT blog weighs in on the book. The column notes that the Clinton revelations occurred in 2006, something Ambinder isn't clear about. Otherwise, the post is mostly a short catalog of "tidbits."

Update with New York Magazine take on book:

Photobucket UPDATE II: New York Magazine weighs in with this cartoon account of the meeting between Hunter and Edwards.  I think we can see where the book will be going!  What do you say about an allegedly factual account of the campaign and marital chaos caused by the affair that can be said with photos. Nothing much.  I can see the great minds of New York Magazine collectively Eureka-ing....Ahah! Let's do Nathan Stormer cartoons.  Oh yeah.......

Originally posted to ksh01 on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 09:34 AM PST.

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