If they don’t start crazy, as Soledad suggests, they sure are by the end of it. Obama makes it though Game Change with his trademark cool intact. But Heillemann and Halperin give us a Republican war hero John McCain reduced to shrieking FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK at his wife in front of his staff. They give us a formerly self-possessed Elizabeth Edwards manically trying to convince herself that Andrew Young, not her own husband, was the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby by ordering up a recreation of the chronology of the previous month’s itinerary so she could match which days Hunter and Edwards had been at the same venue at the same time. Hillary—careful, strategic Hillary—“bug-eyed, red-faced, waving her arms” on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport as she let rip at Obama about what she believed was the underhanded character assassination of herself and her husband for which the star-struck press never called him to account as they did her and Bill.

The craziness was not caused by the political race itself. It was caused by the terrifying transparency in which the modern candidate has to live. Politicians have always been required to be fake, but now the career havoc wrought by a stray, flying sound bite means they have to sustain their fakeness all the time. After six months, the real person inside the mask is screaming. Only an act of self-sabotage can restore a sense of authenticity…

Indeed, by the end of Game Change, one feels that the candidates’ few happy moments are those when they “lose it.” At the charged debate against Obama in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a weary, rattled Hillary, sick of being demonized by the press, stuck it Obama with a cutting reference to “your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner–city Chicago.” She immediately knew it was a mistake, that her goal in this debate was to project a more gracious, less combative Hillary. “I’m sorry, but he was such an asshole,” she tells her chagrinned aides as she exits the debate. One can sense her heartfelt satisfaction.