Have you had the opportunity to settle down with the hot new political gossip book of the past several days, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor's The Obamas? The Gawker Political Desk rarely consumes these White House reporters' bound anecdote collections but, for mysterious reasons, both obtained and made it through 200 pages of Kantor's offering before having to stop due to a total lack of interest in continuing.
Are any fledgling reporters reading this post? At some point you want to write a book of anecdotes and make the big bucks like Jodi Kantor, yes? We've got some good news: The writing part shouldn't be that hard. Kantor actually could've written most of this before the Obama presidency started and gone in later to fill out the template with the appropriate proper nouns. It does not waver from its very predictable narrative: The Obamas were ambitious, idealistic, a husband-wife team who rocketed to the White House. Their hopes were sky high when they came to Washington. Then Washington was difficult and they were sad. They would have disagreements. Then they persevered. Then they were sad. Then they had a bright spot. Then, sadness. Then... come to think of it, we can't remember if it was during a peak or a trough on this suspiciously neat sinusoidal curve that we threw the damn thing on the ground.
If you want the juicy anecdotes, the few excerpts that have been floating around for a week will suffice. Most of the text is Kantor extrapolating grand, simplistic themes of her own mind-read invention and hammering them relentlessly in the form of contradictions. Every bit of action in this book is matched by hundreds of paragraphs of Kantor shoving fluffy ironies to the back of your eye sockets. Here are ten examples we just came up with after flipping to ten random pages:
- "For all their ease together in public and the stunning ambition they had shown in pursuing the presidency, the Obamas were not entirely comfortable with the bargains they had made."
- "In public, they smiled and waved, but how were the Obamas really reacting to the White House...?"
- "If people all over the world were celebrating the prospect of the Obamas arriving at the White House, why was she hesitating?"
- "The presidential campaign supported Michelle's highest hopes about politics but also validated some of her worst fears."
- "In other words, the home part of the White House was not a house at all. It was a box within a larger box, the world's most prestigious executive apartment."
- "As a result, many of the most important moments of Barack Obama's presidency had no witnesses at all: they took place upstairs, the president silent and alone in his office."
- "All she wanted was to be an asset to the administration, and instead she was being treated as a potential liability." [Asset/liability, nice — Ed.]
- "What if his attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable — Michelle and politics, but also many other issues — were impossible; what if the attempts themselves came with their own costs?"
- "They had made their original decision to run for the presidency based on the idea that he would be able to do great things in office, not on the possibility that his presidency would get stuck."
- "Some of the qualities that made her fit in poorly into her husband's political life — her idealism, exactitude, unwillingness to settle for less than what they wanted — were also qualities on which her husband depended, especially when things were going badly."
After a few hundred more of these suckers, Kantor establishes her point: The Obamas aren't one-dimensional figures, but two-dimensional figures. Can't really improve on that, can you?
[Image via AP]