In Winnie-the-Pooh, there is a significant moment when the bear is asked whether he wants honey or condensed milk with his bread. He replies “both”. You can get away with this sort of thing if you are a much loved character in children’s literature. But it is more problematic when great nations start behaving in a childish fashion. When Americans are asked what they want – lower taxes, more lavish social spending or the world’s best-funded military machine – their collective answer tends to be “all of the above”.
Game Change, a new book on the last US presidential election, is causing waves. It is not published until tomorrow, but excerpts and edited highlights are appearing all over the place.
The authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann have done a very effective and entertaining job of dishing the dirt. As far as I can see, just about the only major figure who comes out with any credit is Barack Obama himself. Hillary Clinton is portrayed as scheming to get stories about Obama and drugs into the media , as foul-mouthed – and as stunned and paralysed in a most unpresidential fashion, afer her defeat in Iowa. Sarah Palin comes across as even more of a moron than you might have thought. John McCain’s campaign worried that both the candidate and his wife could be having affairs. Bill Clinton was definitely having an affair – and is self-pitying and hysterical into the bargain. Perhaps the most tawdry episode of all is the story of John Edwards’s affair (yes, they’re all at it), which is re-told in this long excerpt. As you might expect, Edwards come across a narcissistic and ego-maniacal. What is more unexpected is that his wife, Elizabeth, also comes in for a pasting. It takes a certain twisted courage to take a “wronged woman” and cancer victim and to portray her as a monster.