A Long Time Coming


January 23, 2009 by THE POLITICUS

If you're looking for gossip about the campaign trial, you won't find it here. But if you're hungry for details about the historic campaign, then pick up A Long Time Coming by Newsweeks' Editor-at-Large Evan Thomas for a narrative account of what really happened behind the scenes last year. But why buy the book when most of the chapters are a reprint of a series of seven articles of "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign" that appeared in Newsweek on Nov 17, 2008? For $22.95, Newsweek provides some extra content, including a prologue, epilogue, and an interview with Obama.

Newsweek has a reputation of good campaign coverage. This year, reporters — Daren Briscoe, Eleanor Clift, Katie Connolly, Peter Goldman, Daniel Stone, and Nick Summers — were sent on the campaign trail. The reporters were given incredible access to the candidates and their team, just as long as none of the details would be printed until after Election Day. Their page turning book provides a gripping tale of the friction, frustrations, hopes, and back stories endured along the way. There are many side stories addressed in this book that you may have already heard about in the news like Sarah Palin's shopping spree.

Barack Obama's decision to run for president wasn't exactly a "slam dunk." After Gregory Craig and George Stevens started raising money for Obama, he still had to think about how running for President might affect his family. Obama is made to seem like a boring nerd, who is hard to to get to know. Obama is described as "genuinely self-aware," but he was a bit too honest with his aides. He was "no Happy Warrior, and his detachment deflated his staff a bit." But his "ethereal presence" was brought down by his "down-to-earth wife." With very little to criticize, reporters made fun of Obama's eating habits, saying that it made him look "very nearly anorexic." If you didn't pick up the fact that Obama is emotionally attached to his family from seeing him all over the news, his attachment to them is certainly reiterated here. Obama spent days writing his own speeches and listened to his mother's advice on not judging people when he had to write a damage control speech against Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments. Obama ran a calm and highly orchestrated campaign, compared to Hillary Clinton's drama-filled one. When Daren Briscoe interviewed Obama, he was "struck by Obama's focus, so intense that it almost felt like a physical force." Obama told Briscoe that he's worried about the bubble that he will feel with the presidency, but says he will try to prevent that.

John McCain seems like a grumpy old man. He's often misguided by impulsive tendencies, like when he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain's character hasn't changed much since high school: His nicknames were punk and McNasty. McCain was terrible at reading his speeches from the teleprompter and "he had an odd way of smiling at inappropriate times, flashing an expression that looked more like a frozen rictus than a friendly grin." Besides being moody, McCain was also superstitious: He would ask his staffers to change seats if they were in his favorite fourth row seat of his charter plane. The best part of the McCain drama was learning about his brotherly relationship with Marshall Salter. "Salter was indebted to McCain; he had bought a second home in Maine with the money he earned from their books, and he had even met his wife, Diane, in the senator's office."

The book reveals more about McCain's character than it does Obama's. But I guess if you're looking to learn more about Obama, then read Obama's books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father.

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