Thursday, June 17, 2010

2008 Campaign Books

The 2008 election cycle was one of the most significant in American history. The election of the first African-American President of the United States as well as large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have prompted a nearly absurd amount of authors to try and cash in with books about the events leading up to November 4th 2008. As a politics major I have read five or six of these books and three entries stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe- Written by Barack Obama's campaign manager The Audacity to Win presents an inside look into the campaign of the man who is now the President. From the first meeting to election night this book is a compelling and generally honest account of the going on within Obama for America. I was surprised to see that most of the book was dedicated not to the General Election but instead to the Democratic Primary against Senator (now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). In Plouffe's own words this breakdown was simply because "the team we beat (Clinton) was better than the team the Republicans nominated." I was also fascinated with Plouffe's treatment of the introduction of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP selection. It turns out this choice was as much a shock to Obama's camp as it was to the American public. Despite it's positive qualities and must read status for anyone interested in learning more about how Barack Obama scored his decisive victory over John McCain there are one or two aspects of this book that did turn me off. Naturally when being presented with only one side of the narrative Plouffe tends to sugarcoat several of the less savory aspects of the Obama campaign and chooses not to discuss controversies such as ACORN. What bothered me the most though was his final chapter in which he transitions from narrative to political commentary on how evil Republicans are destroying the country. More cheap shot than astute analysis, this chapter really undermines both Obama's message of bridging the partisan divide and the validity of his book as a faithful retelling of the events that occurred between late 2006 and November 2008.

Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin- For those who always wondered what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall of the most important happenings of the 2008 election this book satisfies in a big way. Covering the Democratic Primary, the Republican Primary (albeit slightly), and the General Election Game Change reads more like a novel than a nonfiction on American politics. A thorough examination of the behind the scenes for Obama, Hillary, McCain, Biden, Edwards, and Palin this book shows the candidates warts and all. One of the most unique aspects of this particular publication is the choice to begin with Hillary's decision not to make a last minute entry into the 2004 Democratic Primary. I would have to say that this is my personal favorite as it presents a non-biased account and information that others simply don't have.

The Politician by Andrew Young- One of the great political scandals of our time the collapse of John Edwards served as the main political sideshow the of the 2008 cycle. What is most compelling about this particular book is the author's background. In place of your typical pundit The Politician is written by longtime Edwards aide Andrew Young and the man who claimed to sire Rielle Hunter's child as cover for John Edwards. Truly a scenario you couldn't come up with if you tried this book tells the complete story of Edwards' senate run, his participation in the 2004 veepstakes, the run up to the 2008 election, the affair with Hunter, and the eventual fall of a one time promising presidential hopeful. Edwards is a truly tragic figure in modern politics with Macbeth like ambition, the poisinous advice he received from his terminally ill wife (who morgaged sympathy in an attempt to put her husband in the White House), his grotesque infidelity, and the gall to make a run for the Presidency despite it all. At the end of the day though Edwards is remarkable only because he is the realization of every negative stereotype about politics in America. The effects of his near obsession with the White House however have affected no one more than Andrew Young and watching the destruction of this young man is terrible, although he clearly has made some terrible decisions along the way. Akin to a train wreck, The Politician is the type of book you simply cannot look away from.

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