How Obama Did It
November 5, 2008 6:56 PM   Subscribe

How Obama Did It: an in-depth look behind the scenes of the campaign, assembled by a special team of reporters who were granted year-long access on the condition that none of their findings appear until after Election Day.
posted by thbt (251 comments total) 162 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've read all of what they've posted so far. There is some very interesting stuff in there.

Here are some choice quotes from the second chapter on McCain:

"We're up, boy, we're up," Graham murmured softly when the numbers turned. "Boy, we're down," McCain replied moments later. (McCain and Graham often call each other "boy," another obscure McCain bonding ritual.)

Among Weaver's jobs was combing McCain's hair.

I look forward to the chapters they release tomorrow.
posted by inconsequentialist at 7:09 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eeeeeenteresting.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:12 PM on November 5, 2008




I'm sure we'll hear about some of these Palin antics in the Newsweek piece.
posted by inconsequentialist at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2008


What I wouldn't give for a prank call tape between her and the "President of Africa"...
posted by shirobara at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


They should market this with O.J.'s If I Did It
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I could tell you, but them Obama would have to shoot you.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:21 PM on November 5, 2008


This is Good. Excellent behind-the-scenes journalism. I really look forward to the rest of it (is it really going to be a book?).
posted by Rhaomi at 7:23 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Really interesting. Thanks!
posted by k8t at 7:25 PM on November 5, 2008


Only partway through the first chapter, but I've already found something that helps me put my finger on just what exactly it is that drew me to Obama. That he seems like someone who would say this, and actually mean it:
And he was upset with his own campaign after a low-level staffer referred in a press release to Clinton as "(D-Punjab)" because of her ties to supporters of India. "I don't want you guys freelancing and, quote, protecting me from what you're doing," he lectured his staff. "I'm saying this loud and clear—no winks, no nods here," he said, irritated to take the heat for a clumsy dirty trick he had not known about and would never have authorized. "I'm looking at every one of you. If you think you're close to the line, the answer isn't to protect me—the answer is to ask me."
It's exactly that kind of dignity and integrity that helped set his campaign apart from-- and above-- any other in my memory.
posted by dersins at 7:30 PM on November 5, 2008 [78 favorites]


Whoa. Two things:

1. A coworker forwarded me this earlier, and I was totally going to post it, but figured that in the 2,000+ posts various Obama threads, someone might already have made mention of it.

2. Weeeeeird deja vu I got upon reading the first few comments in this thread. But I know this thread didn't exist before...
posted by limeonaire at 7:31 PM on November 5, 2008


There's some really good stuff in there. This, though, really jumped out at me:

"We're just praying that Bill behaves," a Clinton staffer told a NEWSWEEK reporter that winter. She clasped her hands and bowed several times. Other staffers dryly referred to the private plane owned by supermarket magnate and playboy Ron Burkle, Bill Clinton's friend and traveling buddy, as "Air F––– One."
posted by Forktine at 7:48 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Psyched that Obama compared his wife's belt buckle to the dilithium crystals on the Enterprise. He should have sent more coded messages during the campaign to win the Trek vote.
posted by johngoren at 7:57 PM on November 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


With all of this post-mortem, throwing-under-the-bus activity by Republican faithful of their sacred goat Sarah Palin, I'm hopeful that she'll last all of five minutes in the 2012 primary.
posted by brain cloud at 8:01 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Highlights for the coming chapters.

On the night she officially lost the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton enjoyed a long and friendly phone conversation with McCain. Clinton was actually on better terms with McCain than she was with Obama. Clinton and McCain had downed shots together on Senate junkets; they regarded each other as grizzled veterans of the political wars and shared a certain disdain for Obama as flashy and callow.

I can see them doing that.

At the GOP convention in St. Paul, Palin was completely unfazed by the boys' club fraternity she had just joined. One night, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter went to her hotel room to brief her. After a minute, Palin sailed into the room wearing nothing but a towel, with another on her wet hair. She told them to chat with her laconic husband, Todd. "I'll be just a minute," she said.

History, or erotic fan fiction? You be the judge!
posted by zabuni at 8:02 PM on November 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


Yes these articles are interesting. I read them in the other Obama threads.
posted by marxchivist at 8:11 PM on November 5, 2008


With all of this post-mortem, throwing-under-the-bus activity by Republican faithful of their sacred goat Sarah Palin, I'm hopeful that she'll last all of five minutes in the 2012 primary.
No, no, what liberals need to spend the next few years doing is convincing conservatives that they're TERRIFIED of the powerhouse that is Sarah Palin.

Fred: WOW, COMRADE. THIS ONE WAS CLOSE. IT'S SURE A GOOD THING THEY DIDN'T LET PALIN TALK TO THE PEOPLE! I HOPE THEY DON'T OVERHEAR US AND DISCOVER OUR WEAKNESS!
Achmed: [ululates]
[exeunt]
posted by verb at 8:12 PM on November 5, 2008 [57 favorites]


The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied.

But heaven forbid we condmen people for using the language of hate or bigotry for political ends...

McCain was dumbfounded when Congressman John Lewis, a civil-rights hero, issued a press release comparing the GOP nominee with former Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist infamous for stirring racial fears. McCain had devoted a chapter to Lewis in one of his books, "Why Courage Matters," and had so admired Lewis that he had once taken his children to meet him.

That's one of the shittiest things I've heard since Bush's original "black baby" smears.
posted by rodgerd at 8:14 PM on November 5, 2008


For some reason this really stood out to me:
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'."
It's so nice to see a politician who wants to look beyond glib answers.
posted by peacheater at 8:15 PM on November 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


I found the second chapter fascinating. I didn't pay much attention to McCain until he essentially had the nomination, so it's easy for me to forget that he was inches away from losing the nomination at times. It's funny, I think I may have gained a little respect for him from that piece. Seeing an opponent's human side is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of these. And I'm feeling even more inspired about Obama.
posted by Hactar at 8:18 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Am I missing a page with links to each chapter from the special election project? I read the overview, found chapter one on my own, but didn't even know there was a second chapter until I read this thread, and even then it took some looking to find it -- I had to know that chapter 2 was focused on McCain. For such a juicy behind-the-scenes series, this thing's not set up with remotely obvious navigation.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:20 PM on November 5, 2008


No, no, what liberals need to spend the next few years doing is convincing conservatives that they're TERRIFIED of the powerhouse that is Sarah Palin.

Oh, yes. Quite right. What I meant to say is:

O NOES MAVERICkS! PLEEZ DONT UNLEASH YOUR AWESOME BASE-MOBILIZNG POWERZ ON US!
posted by brain cloud at 8:21 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is from a different NEWSWEEK article (located here -- good read!), but I thought it was just awesome. I really like this guy.
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 … 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'."
posted by cj_ at 8:26 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Am I missing a page with links to each chapter from the special election project?

The links for each chapter are available in the header at the top of the page.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:29 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is like the longest and best e trip of my life.
posted by gman at 8:33 PM on November 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


middleclasstool: The header with the chapter links is javascript. I had to allow newsweek.com in NoScript in order to see them.
posted by des at 8:34 PM on November 5, 2008


Adblock Plus killed it. Thanks, TPS and des.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:37 PM on November 5, 2008


Read this earlier, really good stuff, and I never thought I'd say that about something in Newsweek ever again. I mean, wait, they still make Newsweek? Should I be drinking a Tab and taking an Anacin while I read?

Obama is right, he was awful in those early debates, glad he realized it and worked to get better. And I was glad to hear he was once uncomfortable with the "We will kill Bin Laden" type rhetoric that doesn't even pay lip service to what was once taken for granted: the idea of capturing our enemies and giving them a fair trial. It remains to be seen if he will govern as the man who was repulsed by that thinking, or the man who embraced it for the sake of electoral votes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:40 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Uh, I'm pretty sure Obama would agree that we did that, not him.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:53 PM on November 5, 2008


Slipping from an easy, bemused tone to a near shout, Obama egged on the overflow crowd at the J-J dinner. "So I've got one thing to ask you. Are you FIRED UP? Are you READY TO GO? FIRED UP! READY TO GO!" The Washington Post's David Broder, the Yoda of political reporters, was watching and understood that Obama had found the Force.

Wait.

What?
posted by delmoi at 9:05 PM on November 5, 2008


Man. Barack Obama is fuckin smooth.

But lost in all the frantic Googling, Nexising and IMing was the larger picture. By overreacting, the Clinton campaigners drew attention to their own misgivings about the former president's behavior and to Obama's status as a legitimate contender who could raise big bucks from the Clintons' own base. Obama himself floated coolly over the whole flap, telling a reporter, "It's not clear to me why I should be apologizing for someone else's remarks. My sense is that Mr. Geffen may have differences with the Clintons, but that doesn't really have anything to do with our campaign."

When a president can think and talk and react like that ... why would he ever need to employ something silly like "preconditions"?
posted by brain cloud at 9:22 PM on November 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


"If the house is on fire, would you rather have a psychotic fireman or no fireman at all?"
posted by Wood at 9:27 PM on November 5, 2008


I shouldn't laugh, but,

(The night of the Iowa caucuses:)

An aide approached McAuliffe and said the president wanted to see him. McAuliffe was escorted to the Clintons' suite by a Secret Service agent. He found Bill Clinton watching a bowl game on TV. The ex-president seemed perfectly relaxed and jovial. "Sir," said McAuliffe, "have you heard the news?" "What news?" Clinton asked. "We're going to get killed," said McAuliffe.

"What!" exclaimed Clinton, who then called out in a loud voice, "Hillary!"

posted by sugarfish at 9:34 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, I read these accounts and think that, if their campaigns are any evidence, neither Clinton or McCain were fit to be President. Not for being bad people, but for being completely incompetent at managing others.
posted by rodgerd at 9:54 PM on November 5, 2008 [20 favorites]


(And managing budgets. Anyone who wonders why US government finances are in such disarray ned only watch the spectacle of two presidential candidates blow through all their money without even really noticing or being able to work out why...)
posted by rodgerd at 9:56 PM on November 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Psyched that Obama compared his wife's belt buckle to the dilithium crystals on the Enterprise. He should have sent more coded messages during the campaign to win the Trek vote.
posted by johngoren at 10:57 PM on November 5 [+] [!]


I, too, am incrediably impressed - more than I should be - by a public figure knowing what dilithium crystals are. Though he says "lithium crystals" - maybe not that committed a Trekkie? My grandfather watched nightly when Next Gen was playing in syndication, but I had to keep reminding him who the Romulans were.
posted by jb at 9:57 PM on November 5, 2008


"In my judgment, he showed more insight and maturity than Bill Clinton at the age of 60 in terms of understanding himself."

Interesting quote, but of course what leaps out at me is the insight that while Barack may understand himself, Bill has an instinctive understanding of other people that has been part of his own genius (in politics and ... other areas). A man like that may get through life without understanding himself, or something may happen along the way that wouldn't have happened if he had.

Durbin shared their fears and began lobbying to get Obama put under Secret Service protection.

I helped vote Durbin in, replacing Paul Simon. I've been so pleased with his success in the Senate and he may be the best choice for Majority Leader. But I didn't, of course, know about this service he did his understudy.
posted by dhartung at 10:08 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]




We elected a secret Trekkie? Oh no! He's going to appoint George Takei as Secretary of State and teach our children about fanfiction!
posted by Tehanu at 10:21 PM on November 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Though he says "lithium crystals" - maybe not that committed a Trekkie?

Yes, how dare he devote himself to getting a Harvard Law Degree when he obviously should have put that time to better use obsessing over Star Trek minutiae.
posted by marsha56 at 10:40 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]




I'm as anti-Palin as the next MeFite, but...that stuff about her not knowing which countries are in NAFTA and thinking Africa is a single country smells like a hit job by the McCain team in the wake of their loss. I'm sure there are a lot of powerful Republicans who never want her to rear her head into national politics airspace again, and it's more or less common knowledge that they hated each other. This is the first shot across her bow by the people who want her out of the way. I mean...she can't possibly be that dumb, can she?
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:50 PM on November 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


We have enough lawyers. But what will become of our next generation if there is nobody to teach them that Spock's blood type is t-negative and he has traces of nickel and copper in his blood, turning it green?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:51 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Given the way delegates were apportioned, Obama had amassed a nearly insurmountable lead by the time of the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. At one meeting around the time of Super Tuesday, Ickes tried—for the umpteenth time, it seemed—to explain the mechanics of proportional representation. When President Clinton said, "Oh, hell, we didn't have this stuff in 1992," Ickes nearly "fell off his chair," as he later put it, because the system had been essentially the same back then. Ickes grumbled to reporters that Penn didn't even know that California wasn't winner-take-all; Penn denied it.

I've heard that before, but it's still amazes me. Imagine this crew in the general. Goddamn (although it doesn't sound like McCain was doing any better)
posted by delmoi at 10:57 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama was not one to cast blame, at least not too obviously or too loudly. After his campaign spent $20 million to win Texas and still lost, he ran through a list of mistakes with his staff, not laying any blame on anyone in particular.

He fucking won the most delegates out of Texas! God damn! This reporter also claimed Hillary won Nevada, which he also took the most delegates from.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


delmoi: yeah I thought I was crazy for a second there, but there it is. Maybe for them, losing means anything less than a landslide. Sheesh!
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:25 PM on November 5, 2008


This is a really fun, but also kind of trashy read. I mean, did anyone else notice a little bit of bias? Surely, there were some bad moves in the Obama campaign, but none of them can be found here.

Yeah, fun read, but not reliable evidence of the inherent godliness of our new leader.
posted by serazin at 11:26 PM on November 5, 2008


Never mind, it looks like they're split up in an insane fashion, I can't read that chart, friggin' crazy electoral convention bylaws.
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:27 PM on November 5, 2008


Reading the article earlier, the section that surprised me wasn't about McCain or Obama, it was about Clinton:
On a cold midmorning in January 2007, Hillary sat in the sunny living room of her house on Whitehaven Street in Washington, a well-to-do enclave off Embassy Row where she lived with her mother and, on occasion, her husband. She was finishing a last round of policy prep with her aides before getting on a plane to Iowa for her first big campaign swing. In a moment of quiet, she looked around the living room and said, to no one in particular, "I so love this house. Why am I doing this?"

Her policy director, Neera Tanden, and her advertising director, Mandy Grunwald, laughed, a little too lightheartedly. Clinton went on. "I'm so comfortable here. Why am I doing this?"

Tanden spoke up. "The White House isn't so bad," she said.

"I've been there," said Clinton.
She didn't seem like the reluctant candidate.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:29 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I say again. US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin couldn't name the countries in NAFTA and thought Africa was a single country.

Why all the outrage? If McCain died, she would have picked all this up on the job.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 PM on November 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Reading this...

"The lithium crystals! Beam me up, Scotty!"

I think it's plausible that the reporter heard/noted "The lithium" instead of "Dilithium, especially if they weren't a Star Trek fan. Just sayin'.
posted by davejay at 12:09 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


...did anyone else notice a little bit of bias? Surely, there were some bad moves in the Obama campaign, but none of them can be found here.

You're not going to hear about it, because their campaign mantra from Day One has been "no drama". I.e. no childish infighting, no airing of dirty laundry. And that, as much as anything else, won them the presidency. The willingness to set everything aside and work together, inspired by a common vision and an exceptional leader. If this foreshadoes how Obama will govern, I think America is in for eight great years.
posted by randomstriker at 12:25 AM on November 6, 2008 [8 favorites]


"I mean...she can't possibly be that dumb, can she?"

"YES SHE CAN!"
posted by malevolent at 1:06 AM on November 6, 2008 [29 favorites]


I think the article (so far) is great, but as someone who appreciates "old school" Woodward/Bernstein journalism, this strikes me as leaving a few troubling questions/implications on the journalistic ethics side of this story.

(In some ways it is similar to the "embedded journalist" in the military issue.) Is the public being best served by a journalist who is "sworn to secrecy" until after the election? What if they discovered something the public should probably really know about? Anybody wonder if there were any other (unmentioned) conditions (like giving the Obama team first edit)? Who chose this "special team" of reporters and what were the criteria given?
posted by spock at 1:27 AM on November 6, 2008 [10 favorites]


What if they discovered something the public should probably really know about?

I keep recommending this book by James Fallows. It pulls few punches about how the media has failed in its role as a watchdog over the political process.

It seems unconscionable that people would be able to vote for Palin without being informed about her level of ignorance about the world we live in. We seem to have lucked out this time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 AM on November 6, 2008 [11 favorites]


Detachment. The reporter nailed it. I thought detachment when he won. He was happy, but not slobbering, not overly emotional. Detached. I like that in a leader, it implies rational decisions (or psychopathy, but I'm thinking rational, at this point).
posted by b33j at 2:04 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I'm saying this loud and clear—no winks, no nods here," he said, irritated to take the heat for a clumsy dirty trick he had not known about and would never have authorized. "I'm looking at every one of you. If you think you're close to the line, the answer isn't to protect me—the answer is to ask me."
Who else feels we just elected Jed Bartlet?
posted by heathkit at 2:31 AM on November 6, 2008 [20 favorites]


I really enjoyed reading that. I thought it was richly detailed and added depth to my understanding of Obama as a man and election campaigning as a process. I am eagerly looking forward to reading the remaining parts when they are posted. Thanks for posting this to The Blue -- I tend to overlook Newsweek these days, but this was quite compelling.

As for the ethics of embedding reporters (great term, spock!) in campaigns, I would agree that it's another fall down a slippery slope, another sign of the press's abdication of their duties as watchdogs. Still, the campaigns seemed as well covered as the Olympics by every news organ on the planet, so unless the embedded reporters caught Obama calling Osama Bin Laden on a sat phone to discuss campaign strategy, I am not sure what sort of breaking news they would have revealed. This was just a lot of inside politics, and like watching the sausage get made, it wasn't always pretty, but it was fascinating. Reading it now, assembled as a coherent narrative, it makes for a great read, the more eloquent version of thisfuckingelection.com.
posted by mosk at 2:56 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Depending upon who you choose to believe, we didn't get Bartlet, but Matt Santos
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:10 AM on November 6, 2008


This is fantastic. Great post, thbt.
posted by sveskemus at 3:23 AM on November 6, 2008


I love this kind of stuff. I can't wait for the slew of books and articles about both Obama's core campaign, and his ground-game - still waiting for part 2 of Zack Exley's The New Organizers, which was one of the reasons I had such a good feeling about things going into election day.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:41 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to admit -- the bit about Palin appearing in a towel? That would be ballsy and funny if it were, you know, someone the hell else.

I am having trouble swallowing the notion that Palin was as dumb as she seemed to be. Pig-ignorant is not the same as stupid, and this is how intellectuals often underestimate shrewd opponents. But I thought she had a cunning about her that made her a real threat. She seems to have done so for a few moments, anyway. It appears that Anil Dash's reading of her speeches had exactly the effect predicted upon her audience.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:12 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


So that's what Ba-rack was cookin'...
posted by gman at 4:19 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did I just hear that if Stevens is elected, but forced out office, Palin could appoint herself Senator???!??
posted by gman at 4:24 AM on November 6, 2008


Meh…I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll read all 7 parts, mainly for the details like the joking between Axelrod and Obama, but pieces like this often, as this one does, show their journalistic hand too much for my taste. They must have had a ton of material, but you can practically see the selection process at work: keeping the common assumptions regarding the man in mind, find the material that would most surprise readers. Make the piece revelatory by taking the little nuggets of narrative and claiming they reveal a heretofore unknown aspect of the individual’s character. The nuggets I like, the spin I don’t.
Oh, and minus two points for missing the origin of the phrase about emotions running from A to B: that’s a Dorothy Parker original.
I’ve favorited this post, though. Am I the only whose been favoriting posts and comments like a mad person in the past two days?,
posted by signalandnoise at 4:28 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I’ll read all 7 parts, mainly for the details like the joking between Axelrod and Obama, but pieces like this often, as this one does, show their journalistic hand too much for my taste.

Either that or it's not journalistic enough... I don't want to question the journalists's integrity, but it seems like some of the scenerios are just a little too perfectly described for not being there first person. And a lot isn't attributed or it's not clear who told it to the reporter (did they get it from Obama? Or the person Obama was talking to? For example, the John Edwards "focus" quote. It's just too Stephen Glass-y).

I'm just a fan of attribution, even though I realize it's not magazine style to do so. Whenever I read a story like that I have some suspect in the back of my mind, even if it's a credible magazine.

Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see anyone listed as an author, either.

Still, a fun read.
posted by starman at 5:35 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did I just hear that if Stevens is elected, but forced out office, Palin could appoint herself Senator???!??

As much as I want to say "You betcha!," not exactly.
posted by lukemeister at 5:36 AM on November 6, 2008


CAMERON: There was great concern in the McCain campaign that Sarah Palin lacked a degree of knowledgeability necessary...

If you're going to eschew the obvious 'knowledge' for 'knowledgeability, why not go all the way with 'knowledgeableness?'
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:37 AM on November 6, 2008 [9 favorites]


I guess it was by Kevin Thomas. He was just on the Today Show.
posted by starman at 5:38 AM on November 6, 2008




What I don't get is, isn't it a reporter's job to, I don't know, REPORT on stuff? If they knew all this stuff about Palin, WHY DIDN'T THEY WRITE ABOUT IT? Were they seriously just going to let it go until afterwards, even if the Republicans won? And if they had won, would this stuff ever have come out? It just kills me that instead of reporting actual facts about a candidate that might have been a little bit important for people to know in order to make a truly informed decision about their vote (and believe me, I would want to know just as much if they had discovered Obama was a hologram robot powered by remote HOPE) (Human Operatives Preparing Executive-in-chief) -- instead of doing that, they were busy doing this ridiculous false equivalency bullshit. ("Today McCain and Palin said nothing while crowds chanted 'kill him!' To be fair, though, the Obama campaign has been increasingly negative, pointing out that McCain wants to raise taxes.")
posted by mothershock at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


NPR's Marketplace this morning was practically begging Obama to start presidenting immediately. On the one hand, that shows how hungry we are for real leadership. OTOH, it's a bad sign that they are expecting him to be Superman and will trash him if Things Aren't Better in about 10 minutes on Inauguration Day.
posted by DU at 5:52 AM on November 6, 2008


I didn't see the author listed on the first two chapters, either, but there is a note at the bottom of the third:
"This story is based on reporting by Daren Briscoe, Eleanor Clift, Katie Connolly, Peter Goldman, Daniel Stone and Nick Summers. It was written by Evan Thomas."
posted by signalandnoise at 6:02 AM on November 6, 2008


If they knew all this stuff about Palin, WHY DIDN'T THEY WRITE ABOUT IT?

This is how press embargos work. You get access to your sources on their terms, not yours. They can set conditions like "you can have behind the scenes access as long as you hold the story until after the election," because that's private turf the reporter wouldn't otherwise have access too.

Embargos happen all the time. Reporters routinely get early access to information to give them plenty of time to get their reporting and writing ready when it's time for public release. Sort of like an early press screening of a movie for critics. We'll show you the movie Tuesday, but you can't write about it until Friday. If you break that, you break trust and your paper gets shut out.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:13 AM on November 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


Can someone explain to me the thing that I don't get?

Chapter 1, Section 1:
That December of 2006, Obama told Craig and Stevens, "Lay off me for a while. I've got to talk to Michelle." Obama went off to Hawaii with his wife and two girls for the holidays. "I thought, 'We're dead'," recalled Craig. "He's not going to be able to do it."
Chapter 1, Section 2:
Obama had laid out his vision for the campaign on the day after the midterm elections in 2006.
Midterms happened on November 7, 2006. Why would you lay out your vision for your presidential campaign to other people... before you had your family's sign-off on running in the first place?

And is it possible that only in December 2006, he and Michelle were having this conversation? Surely he had done vast planning before that point, in order to hit so hard in Q1 2007.

I don't know. The timing seems off. Mustn't Obama have already made the decision, at the point by which the Newsweek authors are saying he was still uncommitted and pitching the idea to his wife?
posted by pineapple at 6:14 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is a Newsweek tradition. They always embed some kid with all the campaigns like two years before the election to take notes for a quickie book to be published after. The after action reports always have great insider detail that would not be available without the promise it was all secret until after election day.

(and a deal is a deal - you have to keep what you learned quiet. Though I did think, listening to Cameron last night, that maybe if the veep candidate couldn't name the three countries in North America, it might be time to break that vow)

This first quick draft for the magazine seems very rushed though. The timelines are all fucked up, for one thing.

And know in my bones there is no way Bill Clinton was sitting around watching sports on the night of the Iowa caucuses, unaware his wife was tanking. Not that political junkie. No way. That must have been a day or two earlier.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


OTOH, it's a bad sign that they are expecting him to be Superman and will trash him if Things Aren't Better in about 10 minutes on Inauguration Day.

America elected a saviour, not a President.
posted by gman at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


America elected a saviour, not a President.

I disagree. I think most people are realistic about what's going to happen. They just think Obama will be much, much better than any realistic alternative.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:42 AM on November 6, 2008


This is a great leap forward for Vulcan-Americans.
posted by The Whelk at 6:44 AM on November 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


And Michelle apparently made him promise to quit smoking in return for her assent to entering the race. Promise: Broken.

I've never smoked, but seeing someone as disciplined as Obama have difficulty quitting, particularly when the stakes are so high -- that's a seriously addictive substance.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:48 AM on November 6, 2008


East Manitoba - That's just the sentiment of the crowd at the other Grant Park on Tuesday night.
posted by gman at 6:50 AM on November 6, 2008


As someone who also made a promise to a spouse to quit smoking, there is no way on earth that I would have been able to do it cold turkey, and right before a hugely stressful life event like a presidential campaign.

Quitting (and staying quit, not just quitting anew every Monday morning) means weaning, and the occasional relapse -- and if there is anything that could drive me out back to bum a cig off a staffer, it would be these 25-hour-days or constant debate preparation or the death of a loved one. I can't knock him for falling off that wagon.

Plus, Obama is driven and disciplined enough that he could certainly stop now that he's in office, realizing that he's the victor and has the greatest of international images to maintain.
posted by pineapple at 6:56 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's a documentary heading our way too, which should be really interesting.
posted by Duug at 7:00 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


...realizing that he's the victor and has the greatest of international images to maintain.

Fuck that. Smoking is cool.
posted by gman at 7:01 AM on November 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


...this strikes me as leaving a few troubling questions/implications on the journalistic ethics side of this story....Is the public being best served by a journalist who is "sworn to secrecy" until after the election? What if they discovered something the public should probably really know about?

I'm definitely a critic of the weakening of the press, but this isn't that unusual and it has happened in every election and every ongoing story of national significance. When people give reporters information, generally it's understood that what they say is 'on the record' and it's fair game to report it. The source is going to be accountable by name or title or (least preferred) an identifier like 'an unnamed source high up in the Administration.' (Reporters are reluctant to use unattributed sources, andthey should be -- we saw why during the Judith Miller and Valerie Plame debacles and many other recent journalistic scandals).

When a source gives a reporter information and specifies it's "off the record," then the reporter stops taking notes and just listens. This information is not to be reported. The reporter is only privy to it because the source trusts the reporter to honor the off-the-record agreement. The information may inform the reporter, give leads, give the 'real story' according to the source's perspective, or be otherwise hugely important - but it can't be reported yet, according to ethics. This is a protection for the person acting as a source and for everyone - it is good for the press and the people to be able to give reporters information that they can use without having to draw attention to yourself, incriminate yourself, or be accountable for rumors you've heard but aren't sure are true. If you say something to a reporter off the record, it's not going to be mentioned in the story.

If the interviewee is offering information that is meant to provide context about an event or give a summary, and if it's true enough to be reportable but the source does not want to be directly quoted, the person can begin with "On background...blah blah blah." The reporter knows then that this information is as reliable as the source is, and it can be used, but the interviewee doesn't want to be named. Background can be reported as fact, but the reporter isn't going to be able to specifically cite the source. However, it helps to develop the pitch of a story to know some background.

When something's really not meant to be used, but may change the way a reporter presents a story, it might be called "Deep background" by the source. If you've ever read All the President's Men, the information they got on background and on deep background was extremely important in developing the story, finding leads, and putting the pieces together for an ultimate investigative reporting success. Had they immediately reported every whisper and hint they were given, their sources would have shut right up and the reporters would have blown it completely, losing their chance to report the much bigger, much more significant story.

An embargo is what middleclasstool says. Basically, it means reporters are getting information that is on background and off-the-record UNTIL a certain date, at which point the sources have stated that they are willing to go on the record. It's like a postdated check - before the magic date, they're unwilling to accept attribution and go on record, but after that date, they're willing to go on record.

In all cases, the rules are as they are because it means that ultimately, reporters get more information this way. By providing protections for people giving information to journalists, by honoring the terms of sources, people with information become more willing to give journalists information. Without the protections, we would never know about a lot of huge, important stories, simply because a lot sources - especially government sources -- would just not talk at all, ever, except in statements. If you know something but can't speak freely because your job or promotion depends upon what you are known to say (such as, if you're a campaign staffer during an ongoing campaign with a potential shot at an Administration job if your guy wins), or your family's safety or future prospects are riding upon it, or you're being threatened by someone, or in a position to be blackmailed or bribed, or you'll be seen as a betrayer, or any number of negative consequences - then we are all a lot poorer in information.

What's great about unattributable information is that once the reporter knows there is something there to report, then even if Source A won't go on record, the reporter can start asking Source B and C if they know anything about it, and maybe eventually one of them will go on record.

There's also a sense of proportion in reporting. As interesting as this detail is in retrospect, a lot of it is really minutiae, not affecting policy or voters' decisions or major events during the campaign. A lot of it is simply the texture you pick up when you have access to an organization and its staff. It's fascinating, but most people don't have the time or patience to digest this stuff as part of their daily news intake. It's value-added for political geeks, and wouldn't have gone far to change the outcome. A lot of it has been available (sometimes as unattributed buzz) on things like The Note and the major blogs, but you can't invest as much in reading and believing it when it's not packaged as credible and attributed.

All this is not to say that there aren't problems with the independence of the contemporary press. But seeing this now isn't a betrayal of journalistic ethics, it's journalistic ethics in action. The question is whether the reporters are working as strategically, smartly, and independently with their sources as they can in order to get, and report, the most information.
posted by Miko at 7:02 AM on November 6, 2008 [54 favorites]


What page is the (di)lithium crystal thing on? I can't find it.
posted by DU at 7:03 AM on November 6, 2008


The premise is right at the head of the story, too:
a special team of reporters who were granted year-long access on the condition that none of their findings appear until after Election Day.
So this isn't a case even of holding back information. These journalists are reporting information they would never even have had access to without the arrangement for this special story. It doesn't really preclude the activities of other journalists who are reporting on the campaign in more traditional ways - in fact, the intra-trade gossip that probably flowed from this Newsweek story may have resulted in more hints and leads for journalists doing regular reporting on the campaign trail.
posted by Miko at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2008


What I don't understand, is why or how Hillary Clinton and John McCain got so shook during their early battles with Obama, that they couldn't use their long history to pwn him. Yes, I know the 'change' idea took hold early and people were really wanting that.

But both Hillary and John seemed to fail at doing what most vets can do pretty well, which is make the rookie look like a rookie. Maybe they were both too old and not skilled enough, but all I kept thinking was that if you're such a hardcore vet - show me. Take Obama's words and actions and pretty much laugh at him like he's a rookie. Go into calm, methodical detail and basically pat him on the head like "thanks for trying, kid".

I don't know if they both got scared and