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Rare Medium

Obama si? Obama no?

Hendrick Hertzberg's new account brings us up to Obama's biggest problem: being elected.

Book Cover If journalism is, as conventional wisdom holds, the first draft of history, then we are fortunate to have a practitioner such as the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg involved in its creation. Hertzberg’s inestimable CV includes duty as a U.S. Naval officer, service in the White House as chief speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, and two stints as the editor of the New Republic. His new book, Obámanos! The Birth of a New Political Era (Penguin), adapts and collects his observations of the 2008 presidential campaign from his “Talk of the Town” commentary and his adult-onset blog entries for the New Yorker’s web site. From Hertzberg’s introduction:
This book, whose title comes from a campaign poster I saw on a dusty desert road not far from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is not a formal history of the campaign or an insider’s revelatory account or a reporter’s diary from the campaign trail. It’s simply a real time, contemporaneous record of one person’s observations, cogitations, and indignations over the course of the quadrennial cycle that ended with the election of Barack Obama… The first section, “The Wreckage,” deals mostly with the second term of George W. Bush, without which a break with the past as emphatic as Obama’s probably wouldn’t have been possible. “The Marathon” concerns the long eventful primary campaign, which was as severe a test of stamina and character as any our functionally sadistic political system has ever imposed on a set of candidates. “The Sprint” takes the story to its gladiatorial finish in the fall.
Having grown up informed on presidential campaigns by Theodore White’s memorable The Making of the President series (1960, 1960, 1968, 1972), the sort of coverage which took a more entertaining if not informative direction with Timothy Cruise’s The Boys on the Bus and Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, it’s been years since I have encountered both a campaign and a chronicler that drew my interest. Obama’s election and Hertzberg’s account have changed that.
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