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The Running Mate by Joe Klein - 5 Star Review

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									      The Running Mate by Joe Klein




                         The Running Mate by Joe Klein


Senator Charlie Martin, the slightly John McCain-like war hero of Joe
Kleins The Running Mate, thought getting blown up in Vietnam was
tough, but presidential politics proves the uglier jungle battlefield. Charlie
blows his challenge to the incumbent, Jack Stanton (the delightfully slimy
protagonist of Kleins roman à clef about Clintons 1992 campaign), by
refusing to smear Stanton for his affair with his wifes stylist, the Happy
Hairdresser. Then he brushes a campaign workers breast--by accident--
and gets punched on TV by her irate dad. Charlie does, however, revive
his career by springing a veteran named Mustafa from a Vietnamese
prison, and soon hes on Stantons shortlist for veep and politicking to get
an old war buddy named defense secretary. In this political novel par
excellence, skeletons dance out of practically everybodys closet. Charlies
vivid trip back to Vietnam turns up a son he sired in a one-night stand; his
wickedly droll, still healthy Southern press secretary is HIV positive;
Mustafa has society reentry problems; major politicians turn out to be
closet pill heads, boozehounds, or rapists of staffers (Apparently, she
suffered an involuntary loss of her virginity in the Cannon Building). Even
Republicans hoard deadly secrets. And politics isnt about policies, its
about artful Machiavellian maneuvers, backstabbing, and feeding
scandals to ignorant, arrogant press know-it-alls. (You cant say Klein
lacks chutzpah!) Ornery but honest Charlie finds politics becoming more
noxious and also more sterile as the century staggered home. One
politico says, Its a big game hunt, and were the game.... The junglell be
left to pygmies and hyenas. Klein hails and nails Stanton/Clinton for
skillful cynicism: He was all yak-butter and horseshit, says Charlie. Fans
of Primary Colors will love this books raffish authenticity. But the canvas
is vaster--the Vietnam chapter is as evocative as the American ones--the
story sprawls Tom Wolfe-ishly, and Klein is not just scoring points, hes a
moralist hunting big game. --Tim Appelo

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