Good Reportage

Newsweek is putting out some great political reporting on the election now that folks are linking to. Much of what they have to say about Obama and his campaign is actually more interesting than the revelations about Palin that are getting lots of linky-link.

Try this bit, for example:

“The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me try to answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

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5 Responses to Good Reportage

  1. peter55 says:

    If true, that sure is a strange thing for a community organizer say, not least an African-American community organizer. Did Rosa Parks make no difference because the South’s segregation laws were something collective?

  2. nord says:

    “Obama was something unusual in a politician: genuinely self-aware” “Several journalists brought their families to Obama campaign rallies to bear witness. ”

    I only read the one article linked, but I have to describe that as “fawning”, at best. Narratives get formed well before the campaign begins and adapt from there. Reading this suggests to me the next republican president is going to be some B part movie actor or something.

  3. jpool says:

    It’s a really interesting article and I’m looking forward to the coming installments. Parts of it, particularly once you get into the Clinton section, feel a bit caricatured and even boiler-plate Newsweek, but the small changes definitely show useful insight. As a whole it seems to argue for the long campaign as useful training and test of temperment.

    peter55, I think I agree with you that individual choices are important, and, in environmental matters, as much a part of the solution as national and international commitments. Your counter example, however, is poorly chosen. Parks’s action would have meant nothing but her arrest if she hadn’t already been active with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and thus able to tap into larger activist networks who conceived and mobilized the bus boycott.

  4. jpool says:

    s/b “exchanges”

  5. abstractart says:

    Indeed, one of the dumb things about the mythmaking surrounding Rosa Parks is the idea that she was just a lady who was tired and decided, spontaneously and individually and on the spur of the moment, to break the rules and keep her seat.

    This is nonsense, of course. It’s nonsense to claim that she was the first black person to ever refuse to give up her seat and be punished for it, or that she would’ve made any more difference than the many other black people who’d defied the rules and been punished had she not been part of a collective effort that purposely engineered her situation to be a test case. (The movie Barbershop satirically expounds on this.)

    Of course I don’t think Obama meant that changing light bulbs in your house is meaningless, but he’s absolutely right — our political mythmaking, if anything, skews way too hard to the individual choice end of the axis and downplays the importance being part of an organized movement has always had to actually changing things. We fall way too easily for stories where one random person does one random thing — gives $20 to a homeless guy, plants a tree in his front yard, sits down on a bus — and Changes the World. It seems to me that the celebrity worship by which we’re raptly fascinated by the individual, personal choices of Barack Obama — or Britney Spears, or Matt Damon, or whoever — is part of this blinkeredness.

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