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Humor and Humanity on Display in 'Double Down' Politics

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan at the 2012 GOP convention.

Cruz. Paul. Clinton. Biden.

The list of potential 2016 presidential contenders is long, particularly on the Republican side. How might such candidates stack up as a cast of characters for a chronicle of the upcoming bid for the White House?

“There’s not a person talked about who isn’t interesting,” said Mark Halperin, the co-author with John Heilemann of “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” the best-selling account of the last presidential campaign and the sequel to the duo’s “Game Change,” about the 2008 race.

So will it be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seeking to dispel questions about his Canadian citizenship? Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul claiming the glory that eluded his father, former Rep. Ron Paul? Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a hail-fellow-well-met figure who embodies possibly bygone old-school politics? Or Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking the victory denied her by Barack Obama in 2008, who saw her husband, President Bill Clinton, help seal the deal for Obama’s shaky re-election?

Regardless of who runs, Halperin told CQ Roll Call he sees rich material.

“There’s something intrinsically interesting about someone who puts themselves forward to run for president,” he said.

That, and a lot of humor.

Regarding Ron Paul, for instance, Halperin and Heilemann write in “Double Down” that “his radical libertarianism, out-front isolationism, and just plain kookiness — from his abhorrence of paper money to his ties to the John Birch Society — made him more likely to end up on a park bench feeding stale bread to the squirrels than become the Republican nominee.”

Biden gets a chapter, “The Uncle Joe Problem,” spelling out his unique insider/outsider status.

On the subject of Biden and former White House Chief of Staff William Daley, Halperin and Heilemann write, “They cackled about the fact that [Rahm Emanuel] referred to [Valerie Jarrett] and [Pete Rouse] as Uday and Qusay, after Saddam Hussein’s power-mad sons, and over the nickname others had bestowed on Jarrett: the Night Stalker, for the way she would visit the Obamas in the residence after hours and eviscerate her rivals. ... They were like the gray-haired hecklers in the balcony of ‘The Muppet Show,’ the Statler and Waldorf of the White House.”

And there’s more where that came from.

“There’s a lot of humor to be found in presidential campaigns, and this one had a fair amount of it,” Halperin said.

That can be traced directly to his and Heilemann’s biggest literary influence.

“In terms of political writing, and humor, Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail’ is pretty influential for both of us, because one of his great gifts as a political observer was to find humor but try to fuse it to seriousness of purpose,” Halperin said.

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