“Once a critical mass of conversations is reached, a kind of network effect kicks in, with every additional source begetting the participation of other sources suddenly concerned about their version getting left out. Meanwhile, Halperin and Heilemann are scrupulous about not letting anyone know who else is squealing. ‘They keep it like a VP selection,’ says Romney strategist Stuart Stevens, who says he spoke to them. To this day, for instance, the authors have never acknowledged interviewing Reid. (‘I will say—as long as you make it clear, please, that I’m not referring to any interview we might or might not have done—that we would never threaten anybody we interviewed,’ Halperin insists.)

Not everyone who shares his or her story does so with what you might call full consent. ‘They tell you that everybody’s talking, and if you don’t talk, you’re the one person who’s not talking,’ says a 2008 operative who describes Halperin and Heileman’s technique as ‘a kind of emotional terrorism.’ But most of the authors’ very well-placed sources seem perfectly happy, if not eager, to spill the beans.”

Marc Tracy, in The New Republic, on how Mark Halperin and John Heilemann have perfected their insider reporting for another book, Double Down. Read more from Heilmann.


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