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7 telling passages from Double Down

November 1, 2013, at 9:14 PM
 

Don't wait until November 15 to read all 473 pages of Double Down, the 2012 installment of Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's campaign biography. Copies of the book are popping up in bookstores, and there's been lot of TV coverage of the behind-the-scenes relationship between the Clintons and the Obamas. (Not really news, but plenty of color: They're not each other's best friends, but they've grown on each other.) Here are seven other points of color, each of which illustrates a deeper political dynamic.

1. Far from being annoyed with Vice President Joe Biden, Obama developed a deep affection for him, prizing his intelligence, his loyalty, and his truth-telling. When Biden returned to the White House after visiting his son Beau, who had been hospitalized for a neurological condition, Obama "came sprinting down the hall to the White House." Biden would not tolerate any digs at Obama in his presence. He "upbraided" then Rep. Anthony Weiner for making such a comment, and did something similar with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a lunch in 2011, Obama told Biden: "You know, I'm surprised. We became friends!" Biden's reply: "You're fucking surprised?"

2. The Obama White House was floored at the way Jon Huntsman Jr., then the ambassador to China, openly flirted with running for president. Chief of staff Richard Daley told him point blank: "This is a pretty shitty way to treat someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime. When he did decide to make a go of it, Huntsman was a surprisingly passive candidate, and, shocking his aides, said he would refuse to accept his father's money to make it to the nomination.

3. Mitt Romney's favorite substitute for the F-bomb: "blooming." As in, "that blooming idiot." And, where others would say "shit," Romney would say "grunt." He did not seem to mind when others cussed in his presence, especially Chris Christie, who had become a pretty regular confidante. When Newt Gingrich was on the ascendance, it was Christie who urged Romney to "kick the shit out of him."

4. Behind the scenes, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels watched the unfolding disaster of the Romney campaign, and tried to get Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan to run for president at the last minute.

5. Romney's vice presidential vetting team initially considered Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rob Portman, Gov. Bob McDonnell, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Sen. John Cornyn. The final short list: Ryan, Christie, Pawlenty, and Rubio. Ryan overcame his early hesitation that Romney was not a movement conservative and his wife's fear about the arduousness of the campaign. Ryan was particularly wary of top Romney aide Stuart Stevens, whom he saw as "indifferent" to the conservative moment.

6. The biggest worry for Romney's veep vetters about Christie was not his health: It was about various financial dealings involving his family and friends. A 2010 DOJ investigation into Christie's spending habits as a U.S. attorney. His time as a lobbyist for the securities industry. His brother's dealings with the SEC, and more. Christie had contempt for Romney's operation, which returned the feelings: Christie was a very hard surrogate to manage, insisting on very expensive charters and emoluments. Romney's team did not think Christie's operation was sufficiently cooperative with their vetting requests. Romney picked Ryan 10 days before the choice was announced. "The Garden State governor's record was littered with potential landmines."

7. After the first presidential debate, President Obama confessed that "he was struggling."

"You keep telling me I can't spend too much time defending my record, and that I should talk about my plans, he said. But my plans aren't anything like the plans I ran on in 2008. I had a universal health care plan then. Now I've got.. what? A manufacturing plan? What a I gonna do on education? And what am I gonna do on energy? There's not much there. .. I can't tell you that. Okay, I woke up today. I knew I needed to do better, and I'll do better. I am wired in a different way than this event requires."

Obama paused.

"I just don't know if I can do this."

 

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