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'Game Change': Is the book gossip or journalism?

January 11, 2010 |  9:22 am

Democrat firebrand Howard Dean called it a gossipy book. Today the authors of "Game Change" -- both veteran campaign reporters -- defended their inside look of the 2008 campaign, calling it an inside look at "the human drama of politics."

"We tried to tell a story of the intimate reality of what it's like to run for president," said co-author John Heilemann of New York magazine. "Gossip is that which is unverified.... Everything in our book is factual."

What's more, added, co-author Mark Halperin of Time magazine, said the two maintained "an incredibly high standard...we left stuff out" if wasn't nailed downed or relevant.

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Whatever the book's merit, Washington has been reading all weekend. Few in politics were spared:

Elizabeth Edwards: The wife of Democratic candidate John Edwards was according to campaign insiders an "abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazy woman" who was openly dismissive of her husband's intellect. After news broke about his affair with Rielle Hunter, the couple fought in front of staffers. The authors describe a moment where Elizabeth, in a state of fury, deliberately tore her blouse in the parking lot of the Raleigh, N.C. airport, "exposing herself. ’Look at me,' she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground."

Sarah Palin: The Alaska governor tapped to be Republican John McCain's running mate was erratic during the campaign. "One minute, Palin would be her perky self; the next she would fall into a strange blue funk," the authors write. At one point, before her ill-fated CBS interview with Katie Couric, "her eyes glassy and dead," Palin smeared off her make-up, complaining that she looked fat. After the interview, she went into a tailspin -- no longer eating or sleeping, and drinking only a half a can of diet soda a day.

Bill Clinton: In a phone call in which he tried to get the late Ted Kennedy's endorsement for Hillary Clinton's campaign, the former president said of Obama, "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."  The book says the remark left Kennedy "fuming" and may have pushed him into the Obama camp. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign maintained "a war room within a war room" to deal with questions of Bill Clinton's infidelity.

You be the judge -- important information about politics or scurrilous gossip meant to sell books?

-- Johanna Neuman

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