Politics

Authors give a glib account of 2012 campaign in ‘Double Down’

 

At one point in their emptily entertaining replay of the 2012 presidential election, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin engage in projection. They describe another political book as “teeming with tittle-tattle.” But Double Down likewise glorifies the flimsily sensational. Reading it is like spending a week on a boat with two fishermen who are trying hard to convince you that the minnows they’re catching are whales. The great polarizing issues of the day matter less to Heilemann and Halperin than one-upmanship.

Nevertheless, their cutesy writing style is uncomplicated enough for mid-to-high-information beachgoers to pass the time, reliving Mitt Romney’s maladroit struggle against an uninspiring Barack Obama. Heilemann and Halperin’s weaknesses could be overlooked in their last bestseller, Game Change, because their subject, the 2008 election, was so damn interesting. No credible screenwriter would have dared pitch such an idea. A young African-American senator defeats a former First Lady for the Democratic nomination after a dramatic primary marathon. His Republican opponent, an aging war hero, chooses an unknown female governor as his running mate without properly vetting her. Shortly after, she shows herself to be dangerously unqualified. Meanwhile, the country faces the worst economic crisis since the Depression. In comparison, the 2012 election was as dull as a tax lecture.

Double Down does have moments. The authors take us behind the scenes of Clint Eastwood’s address to the Republican convention, when he had a tete-a-tete with a piece of furniture. Eastwood’s appearance was Romney’s idea; he was in awe of the actor, who got the idea for the chair from a Neil Diamond song he heard earlier that day on the radio. Incredibly, Romney’s people never insisted that he clear his remarks with them. They were too afraid of the Man with No Name.

But a month later, the president’s performance at the first debate made Eastwood “appear prophetic.” The authors do a good job of describing the turmoil that preceded and followed the event in Denver. In 2008, pundits were impressed with "No Drama Obama," a candidate who oversaw a campaign largely devoid of infighting. But after he entered the White House, it seemed like "All Drama Obama," with staffers taking turns sniping at each other. Things came to a head a few days before the crucial second debate, when Obama was still struggling to relax. His advisors had to stage an intervention, during which the president confessed his psycho-political shortcomings.

Heilemann and Halperin devote excessive space, however, to never-rans such as Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and the pathologically self-congratulatory Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Obama campaign’s groundbreaking data-mining operation, which was instrumental in the president’s reelection, is mentioned only once. And one would like an explanation for the dismissive description of the man who filmed Romney’s fateful 47 percent remark at a Boca Raton fundraiser. To the authors, he is merely “a disgruntled bartender.” As they well know, his name is Scott Prouty, and he is something of a hero, having pulled a woman from a sunken car. Are they upset with him because he spoke at length with Jonathan Alter, for his book on the 2012 campaign, The Center Holds?

The authors also fail to tell us what was at stake in this election. Had Romney prevailed, he and his running mate, Paul Ryan, would have attempted to undermine the social safety net. But that is too deep for the authors, whose language is geared toward glibness. Rick Santorum is referred to as “Santo,” Chris Christie is “Big Boy,” someone doesn’t know “squat,” someone else gets into a “hot mess.” Lest you think the authors are dumbing themselves down, every now and then they reach for their thesaurus; for example, did you know Christie had a “coriaceous hide?”

Recently, a poll suggested that a majority of Americans would now vote for Romney. No doubt this is due to dissatisfaction with Obama’s inexplicably inept handling of the Affordable Care Act, which has jeopardized his second term.

During the campaign, Bill Clinton was dismayed at the breaks Obama got. “He’s luckier than a dog with two d---s,” the former president said. But today the dog acts as if it has been fixed by a vet.

Ariel Gonzalez teaches English at Miami Dade College.

Read more Books stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">STONE MATTRESS: </span>Nine Tales. Margaret Atwood. Nan A. Talese. Doubleday. 288 pages. $25.95.

    Stories

    Past looms large in new stories from Margaret Atwood

    In Margaret Atwood’s new collection, the past looms large for aging protagonists, but sympathy and regret abound, too.

  • What are you reading now?

    “I just finished Claire DeWitt and The City of the Dead by Sara Gran, which I love, love, loved. It’s a mystery set in New Orleans shortly after the storm and solved by girl detective, Claire DeWitt, who applies her special method of detection which is pretty much based on yoga and Buddhism combined with the altered mind states of drugs, drink, dreams and growing up in Brooklyn.”

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">WHAT STAYS IN VEGAS:</span> The World of Personal Data — Lifeblood of Big Business C — and the End of Privacy as We Know It. Adam Tanner. PublicAffairs. 316 pages. $27.99.

    Nonfiction

    ‘What Stays in Vegas’ examines data packaging and the end of privacy

    Journalist explains how data packaging makes American companies the biggest threat to privacy.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category