Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are laughing all the way to the bank at the mess Harry Reid is facing. The hottest backstage tidbit of their new campaign chronicle, "Game Change," is that Reid praised Barack Obama's political appeal as a "light-skinned" black man with "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
The prestige these authors have among their media colleagues was weightier than the Democrats pleading to be spared the headache. (Halperin is now at Time after many years at ABC; Heilemann is at New York magazine.) For his part, President Obama quickly proclaimed, "The book is closed," even if the uproar was just beginning. Obama did not comment on the book's report that Ted Kennedy was furious at Bill Clinton after Clinton sneered that Obama was so inexperienced that "a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."
The authors said "trust us" on the book's anonymous sources because we know these campaign sources so thoroughly that we know all their motivations. Which leads to Question No. 2: If you know these sources so well, why did it take a year or two to unload these scoops?
Because Obama is safely elected? Or because now they can cash in?
Don't always trust the first draft of history -- or as Ronald Reagan would say, trust, but verify. Some stories come cloaked in anonymity from campaign staffers who want to stab their old employers in the back with a machete, and then go out and get the next job with no fingerprints. The authors are very Bob Woodward-like, offering detailed reconstructions of scenes and conversations they did not witness firsthand, with no audio or video to back up the allegations.
Reid owned up to his racial remarks, but Clinton stayed quiet. Conservatives were passionate in underlining an obvious point about Democrats. They play the race card obsessively, but when the arrow turns back on them, we see Obama asserting Reid is a good man "on the right side of history." Just weeks ago, Reid was comparing conservative opponents of a government takeover of health care to those who clung to slavery and segregation. Why does he deserve a pass on this -- especially when he owns the quote?
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