03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

'Game Change' Holds Out Women For Particular Contempt

One of the emails last night beseeched me to pay particular attention to the rather shabby treatment of the prominent female figures -- Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Edwards, Cindy McCain, and Sarah Palin -- in "Game Change". That's a pretty sound urging, to my mind: in the world of consequence-free gossip-mongering, women often fare the worst. As it turns out, Salon's Joan Walsh, unpacking after a frustrating appearance on "The Ed Show", addressed the issue rather deftly:

On Tuesday I most objected to Schultz suggesting that Elizabeth Edwards may be even more to blame than her husband John for supporting his decision to continue to campaign for president even after his affair with Rielle Hunter was known. How do I count the ways that is wrong? John Edwards was both the candidate as well as the philanderer, who even after he'd lost, tried to strike a deal with Obama to become his vice president - and his terminal-cancer-stricken wife, who might have been clinging to the campaign to protect her from the pain of her husband's infidelity and her likely death, is worse than he is? Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton is also trashed in the book as imperious, bitchy, shrill and insecure, based on anonymous sources from her admittedly dysfunctional campaign. (Read Peter Daou for a staffer's defense of Clinton.) Funny how the worst villains of the book are all women - Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. McCain (did you know she's alleged to have had an affair?) - along with, of course, Sarah Palin. "Game Change" might have been titled "Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse" so badly do those four females, two of them not candidates but wives, come off in what is supposed to be the definitive book about Campaign '08. Boy we've cracked that old glass ceiling!

Walsh also offered this criticism, which I find apt:

At a time when we're fighting at least two wars, enduring double-digit unemployment, a controversial health care reform bill may or may not become law, and Haiti just had a devastating earthquake, how could we possibly be talking, nearly 24/7, about a gossipy book that reveals nothing serious about policy, hidden deals, corruption or conflicts of interest along the 2008 campaign trail?

It's worth pointing out that on page 9 of the book, in a section that just assaulted my rational mind, Halperin and Heilemann literally assign "the epic crisis of the global financial system" the same level of importance as such Election 2008 trivia as Jeremiah Wright's jeremiads, Bill Clinton's "outbursts in South Carolina" and the McCains' lack of marital bliss.

Of course, of the things on that list only the "epic crisis of the global financial crisis" is of remote importance to Americans. I'm not at all surprised that the media blindly follows Halperin and Heilemann's belief that the opposite is true. I'll just note with sadness that maybe the political press is just better suited to grappling with gossip than with complex issues that affect the lives of millions of Americans.

"Game Change"'s greatest contribution to politics may be that it simply demonstrates that the political discourse is largely moderated by a fraternity of mediocrity.

Joan Walsh: When gossip trumps news [Salon]

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