A new account of the 2008 presidential campaign claims a sometimes “icy” relationship between Democratic Party nominees Joe Biden and Barack Obama, details reportedly erratic behavior from a “paranoid” Elizabeth Edwards, and accuses the McCain campaign of holding a conference call to discuss Sarah Palin's mental health.
"Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime," by New York magazine’s Joe Heilemann and Time magazine’s John Halperin, has roiled Washington and stunned political observers since excerpts were released this weekend.
The authors’ report of comment made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about Obama’s race has dominated media coverage of the book, prompting Republican calls for the senator's ouster.
In a private conversation reported in the book, Reid described Obama as a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Reid apologized to Obama on Saturday, and the president issued a statement accepting the apology and saying the matter was closed.
The 447-page volume also outlines a strained relationship between the nation’s first black president and the running mate he chose to accompany him to the White House.
According to its authors, Obama and his pick for vice president, then-Sen. Joe Biden, clashed with enough frequency that aides deliberately excluded Biden from some internal meetings.
Biden grumbled about the campaign’s ad strategy and what he perceived to be its thin policy proposals, while top Obama aides were irked by the Delaware lawmaker’s propensity for verbal gaffes.
When a road-weary Biden told guests at a Seattle fundraiser that the young presidential candidate would be “tested” in his early days as president, the authors write, Obama “hit the ceiling.”
Obama reportedly seethed on a conference call with staff: “How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?”
But according to the book, tensions between Obama and Biden paled in comparison to concerns voiced by John McCain’s top advisers about the GOP nominee’s running mate, Sarah Palin.
Top Republican advisers convened an S.O.S. conference call to discuss Palin’s behavior, which some consider erratic.
Some staff members believed that Palin, who had stopped eating and sleeping normally as her much-anticipated debate with Biden approached, might be suffering from post-partum depression.
Palin is not the only female political figure whose stability is questioned by the insider sources — most of them anonymous — who are quoted in “Game Change.”
The book contrasts the public and private personae of Elizabeth Edwards –whose popularity with voters was considered one of Democratic candidate John Edwards’ most indispensible strengths during the primary.
Where the public saw a down-to-earth, resilient spouse, campaign insiders complained about enduring the unpredictable outbursts of “an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazywoman,” according to the book.
Detailing the lurid spiral that led to the disclosure of Edwards’ affair with an aide, Halperin and Heilemann point to an emotional confrontation between Edwards and his wife that was reportedly observed by aides at an airport tarmac.
According to the book, Elizabeth Edwards “tore off her blouse, exposing herself. ‘Look at me!’ she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.”
The oft-discussed marriage of Hillary and Bill Clinton does not escape the book’s microscope, either.
The authors of “Game Change” write that concerns about Clinton’s sexual indiscretions led three top aides to form a “war room within a war room inside Hillaryland, dedicated to managing the threat posed by Bill’s libido.”
As the campaign wore on, however, it was Clinton's comments to other Democrats that proved most damaging to his wife's campaign
In one episode, the duo reports, Sen. Ted Kennedy was incensed that the former president — even as he courted Kennedy’s endorsement for his wife — belittled Obama, saying that “a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”