Weekly Standard: 'Game Change' a Badly Written Chronicle of F-Bombs

Author, political analyst, and humorist Andrew Ferguson really lacerated the campaign memoir Game Change in the February 1 Weekly Standard. He pointed out the inside-the-Beltway media chumminess greeting authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: "The authors are highly regarded political reporters—highly regarded, that is, by other political reporters whom the authors likewise hold in high regard (that’s how admiration works here)." But that doesn’t excuse a bad book. He began by isolating page 279:

"F— you! F—, F—, f—, f—, f—, f—, f—, f—, f—, f—!!!"

McCain let out the stream of sharp epithets, both middle fingers raised and extended, barking in his wife’s face. He was angry.

Amazingly, these authors don’t offer the reader any explanation of this abusive scene that they might expect from reporters -- the when, where, and why:

As a book, of course, Game Change isn’t any good. The haste with which it was thrown together shows itself on every page. The narrative zigs and zags, subplots are left to dangle, anecdotes lead nowhere. The passage above, minus the dashes, opens a section of chapter 15 and then just sits there, completely unexplained. When did this happen? Where were McCain and his wife? Why was he so angry, what did she do in response, who else was there – all the old-fashioned reporter-type questions are unasked and unanswered; the authors merely drop the lines into the text for our enjoyment and then move on to a brief summary of the state of John McCain’s marriage (assuming he still has one).

The writing itself is so careless that readers will sometimes wonder whether their legs are being pulled. Most writers would consider the descriptive phrase "sharp epithets" unnecessary after detonating ten—I counted—f-bombs, one right after the other, in perfect sequence. And I’m sure the authors could have done without that extra pair of exclamation points.

Ferguson sums up the book’s cascade of profanities from politicians of all stripes in the H&H narrative: "And all of them, every single one of them, use the f-word as if they believed it had the power to transform and to heal. Even Valerie Jarrett."

Ferguson also delved into the book’s biggest problem it’s "Trust Me" sourcing from insiders:

For that matter, we don’t know whether Game Change really is offering the real story, as the authors claim. We have to take a lot on faith, if only because the authors are taking a lot on faith. They don’t want to admit this, of course, and they go to great lengths to affirm the definitiveness of their many, many anecdotes.

Consider, as a tiny example, that quotation from McCain above. How do they know he dropped ten f-bombs and not nine? Maybe it only seemed like ten to the snitch who was in the room at the time—and who later counted them out for the authors. But no: It’s got to be ten, according to an authors’ note describing their methods. "Where dialogue is not in quotes, it is paraphrased, reflecting only a lack of certainty on the part of our sources about precise wording," they write.

But McCain’s words—actually the same word, over and over—appear in quotes. "Where dialogue is within quotation marks," they go on, "it comes from the speaker, someone who was present and heard the remark, contemporaneous notes, or transcripts." We can safely assume in this instance that the precise wording didn’t come from the speaker—unless he’s out of his f—in’ mind—or from notes or transcripts. So it must have come from "someone who was present and heard the remark." Maybe she used one of those hand clickers.

Ferguson concluded the book was "an exquisite construction built from betrayal and deceit. It is a precise rendering of the political culture of Washington."

John Heilemann
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