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Such grounding goes to the genesis of “Game Change” between Halperin and Heilemann, as they were returning from a campaign event for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in Annapolis, Md., that Halperin said “had a lot of humor and bathos to it.”
You’re automatically in the literary track if you recognize “bathos,” that feeling when something big or important steers into the ridiculous or trivial. Although politics is filled with bathos, recognizing and chronicling it is the purview of few political journalists.
Thompson excelled at it. Halperin and Heilemann are following in his Chuck-Taylor-shaped footsteps.
“Our conception of it was to try to do a few things. One is to go back and answer the unanswered questions that people just can’t get answered in real time, even in monthly journalism. And second is to try to write about the story from a human point of view, focusing on the main characters and their motivations and challenges. And finally, to think about it in novelistic terms and cinematic terms. So: Find big scenes that are important and interesting and emotional and funny and historic, and try to report the heck out of them so you can reconstruct what occurred,” Halperin said of his partnership with Heilemann.
Much of the reporting for “Double Down” gave Halperin a perspective on early 2016 developments, including a possible third White House run for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the George Washington Bridge-related travails of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Could Halperin see Romney running again, even after the emotional drubbing the Republican took in 2012 when he was absolutely convinced he would win?
“I actually can. I think if Jeb Bush doesn’t run, there’s really no obvious heir apparent. ... If you just put down strength and weaknesses on paper, he’s well known and can raise a lot of money,” he said.
As for Christie’s bridge fiasco, Halperin said he was not surprised “in the least,” explaining that Christie “plays by his own rules” and “can be volatile and emotional and human in dealing with controversy.”
One thing “Double Down” makes clear is the enormity of the logistical challenge of running for president. If you can’t court the establishment, raise upward of $1 billion or deal with spending the entirety of your campaign in a hotel room, it’s practically a non-starter.
It probably helps to have a sense of humor, too.
Halperin discusses his book as part of the Roll Call Book Club at 6 p.m. Thursday at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. It’s free, but please register at cqrcbooks-halperin.eventbrite.com. Complimentary copies of the book will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.