Game Change: Obama, Hillary, McCain

Hillary Clinton did not want to be Secretary of State when Barack Obama offered her the job — and one reason she gave was her husband,

John Heilemann and Mark Halperin in their book, Game Change, describe Obama's midnight meeting with Hillary in Washington two weeks after he won the presidential election in November 2008:

It's not going to work, an anguished Hillary said… You don't want me, you don't want all these stories about you and me. You don't want the whole circus…

Hillary, look, you're exactly right, Obama said… But the thing is, the economy is a much bigger mess than we'd ever imagined it would be, and I'm gonna be focused on that for the next two years. So I need someone as big as you to do this job… I need someone I can trust implicitly, and you're that person…

You know my husband, she said…You know I can't control him, and at some point he'll be a problem…

I know, Obama replied. But I'm prepared to take that risk…

Hillary announced her decision to be Secretary of State the next morning. The book concludes:

It was November 20. The election was sixteen days in the past. But today, Obama had pulled off the grandest game change of all. On the brink of great power and awesome responsibility, he and Clinton were on the same side.

If the ending seems star-struck, the book is anything but…

Continue reading “Game Change: Obama, Hillary, McCain”

Reading Arthur Schlesinger

Schlesinger Isn’t it strange that the only other American president whose father had also been president came to power like George W Bush, despite losing the popular election?  John Quincy Adams, who like Bush also shared his father’s first name, tried to reach out to the opposition when he gave his inaugural address in 1825. Not Bush. "He acted as if he had won in a landslide — and he got away with it," wrote the American historian, Arthur Schlesinger (picture from Washington Post).

He drew the contrast between the two men in his last book, War and the American Presidency, published three years ago. I got hold of the slim paperback after his death on Feb 28 at the age of 89. He was a liberal close to President John Kennedy — and a fierce critic of Bush and the Iraq war. He condemned Bush for declaring war on false evidence — no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be found — and using the war to increase the powers of the state and security agencies.

Bush attacked Iraq despite protests from allies such as Germany and France. The unilateral action he took was standard US policy in the 18th and 19th centuries when America avoided foreign alliances, said Schlesinger. But after the Second World War, America built up alliances to counter the Soviet threat and this multilateralism helped it win the Cold War, he added. Abandoning that policy, Bush, in his opinion, ended up in a mess.

The book is not just a critique of Bush and the Iraq war. It also looks at how political parties have become less relevant with politicians using television and opinion polls to address the voters and find out what they want. It also discusses the effect of globalisation and the Internet. But it adds:

"The most fateful source (of change) in the United States is race … Minorities seek full membership in the larger American society."

Yes, indeed. Barack Obama is campaigning to be the next US president. And no one’s writing him off.