Temper! Temper! Political junkies who think they've seen Bill Clinton lose his rag (finger-wagging during the Lewinsky mess, or red-faced and pouting during Hillary's campaign travails) only had a preview.
Turns out, when Bill blows, his aim runs wide. It seems that when Bill first got an inkling that Ted Kennedy was wavering between endorsing Hillary or Obama as his candidate of choice, Bill let fly at the late senator.
In a decadently dishy new book, Game Change, veteran political reporters John Heilemann (New York magazine) and Mark Halperin (Time magazine) claim Clinton belittled Obama in a way that deeply offended Kennedy.
"Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, 'a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee'," the authors write. When Kennedy later told Clinton that he was endorsing Obama, Clinton reportedly said: "The only reason you're endorsing him is because he's black. Let's just be clear."
The book, decried as 'poli-porn' by some critics, was released stateside last Tuesday. By Thursday it was sold out nationwide, with the longest wait listed for orders in (yes) Washington DC.
Team effort to contain libido
IRONICALLY, it wasn't Bill's big mouth that most worried Hillary as she launched her bid for the Oval Office. Heilemann and Halperin report that concerns about Clinton's sexual indiscretions led three top HRC aides to form a "war room within a war room inside Hillaryland, dedicated to managing the threat posed by Bill's libido".
Then-campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle was disturbed, according to the book, about some very specific rumours making the rounds: one was about an affair with actress Gina Gershon, another about an affair with a member of Canada's parliament, and finally one about an affair with a "wealthy divorcee". Although the war-room team worked to discredit most of the rumours, according to the book, the aides discovered that at least one was true. "Bill was indeed having an affair," write the authors, "and not a frivolous one-night stand but a sustained romantic relationship."
After the campaign, when Obama approached Hillary to become his Secretary of State, she bluntly raised the topic of her husband's behaviour when explaining to the president-elect why she felt she couldn't accept the offer because she felt she couldn't control what he might do.
In that late-night phone call, the authors write that Obama told Hillary he would run that risk in exchange for having her on board. Hillary accepted the post the next morning. In response to question as to why the Secretary of State hasn't rebutted any of the anecdotes relayed in Game Change, Clinton loyalist Mark Ambinder tells the online magazine Politico: " Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State. She is no longer in the political swamp. And she is comporting herself as a diplomat, not a politician."
Suffering wife image rocked
WHATEVER about the scuttlebutt about the Clintons, the dirt on John and Elizabeth Edwards in Game Change is devastating. While the sensational downfall of the former Democratic senator from North Carolina has been well documented, the shocker is the depiction of Elizabeth, long viewed as a down-to-earth wife who battles cancer with stoic resilience, "as a vicious, spiteful, out-of-control headcase".Or to quote a former campaign aide: an "abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazy woman" who was openly dismissive of her husband's intellect -- sneering at him for being "a hick".
Things got particularly ugly, say the authors, after news broke about Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter. Initially, as the story went largely unreported by the media, John thanked his aides for their efforts to contain the allegation. Elizabeth, though, reportedly left a voice mail with one aide who she felt had not done enough to douse the story, declaring: "You are poison! You're dead to us."
As the scandal started to gain steam, the couple's fights escalated. The book describes one hideously emotional confrontation, as relayed by an aide, when the couple went after each other in an airport parking lot.
Elizabeth, who was crying bitterly, "tore off her blouse, exposing herself. 'Look at me!' she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground". Cementing Edwards' image as an empty suit, the authors write that as he (by turns delusional and megalomaniacal) prepared to do a televised confession about his affair with Hunter, he still believed he would land a top spot (as Attorney General) in Obama's administration. The white noise at the other end of his requests to talk to the president-elect took some while to get through.
Palin aides go nuclear
EVEN though it might feel like drowning a kitten, the authors reserve their maximum bite for Sarah Palin who, they report, was dragged into the race at the last minute only because John McCain realised the party would never accept his buddy Joe Lieberman as his running mate.
From the start, "concerned" McCain aides showered Palin with fact-filled index cards to help her bone up on whatever information she might need to know. One aide, it's said, spent quality time coaching Palin on how to properly pronounce the word "nuclear".
"One minute, Palin would be her perky self; the next she would fall into a strange blue funk," the authors write. Before her notorious interview with Katie Couric, "her eyes glassy and dead", Palin smeared off her make-up and complained that she looked fat. After the interview, she went into a tailspin -- no longer eating or sleeping, and drinking only a half a can of diet soda a day.
"Palin couldn't explain why North and South Korea were separate nations. She didn't know what the Fed did. Asked who attacked America on 9/11, she suggested several times that it was Saddam Hussein," the authors write, driving home their point with the comment that Palin struggled to get Joe Biden's name straight -- repeatedly referring to him as "Senator Obiden".