I received my special election issue of Newsweek yesterday (the November 17 edition), and having read it cover to cover, I have just set it down.
This is the finest piece of journalism I've seen in my lifetime.
Thanks to a monthly donation I give to Chicago Public Radio, Chicago Public Radio gives me a never-expiring subscription to Newsweek. I must admit, when it first arrived a few years back, issues piled up in my inbox, unread, uncreased, and eventually recycled. But in early 2007, as the election got underway, I began reading the political content. I appreciated the magazines' frankness, it's ability to address delicate issues with a mixture of sensitivity and realism, the fact that even though I saw many Newsweek writers appear regularly on left-leaning shows like Countdown with Keith Olbermann, I still felt that the publication at large adhered to journalistic non-bias.
I watched every minute of this election, every primary return, every debate. I canceled plans with friends, I converted my fiance into a politics wonk, and I blogged furiously for close to 90 minutes a day. As I learned reading this issue, there is so much that I missed.
Through something loosely referred to as "the Project," reporters Daren Briscoe, Katie Connolly, and others were more or less embedded with the campaigns for close to two years, and as Editor John Meacham describes:
...Anything they learn is kept confidential until the polls close on Election Day. We build a wall around the team, and the reporters do not share information with the weekly magazine or Newsweek.com staffs.
This wall is the reason that, nearly a week after the election, I am learning for the first time that when John McCain's friends urged him to run for president, he once responded, "What the f--- would I want to lead this party for"; that when Ted Kennedy phoned Bill Clinton to ask him to stop Hillary's divisive campaigning, Bill responded "Well, they started it," to which Sen. Kennedy replied, "I don't think that's true"; or that Barack Obama, after teasing his wife for wearing a large, eccentric belt buckle, knelt down and spoke into the buckle, "Beam me up, Scotty!"
This special issue is a narrative that offers us couch politicos a seat on the bus, the plane, backstage, in the advisors' offices. Now we know the final outcome of the election, but in lieu of the "Where did it go wrong?" Tuesday-night quarterbacking that other outlets are resorted to, Newsweek has chronicled every twist, every turn. You see the story unfolding, and you're captivated, even though you know how it ends.
I am going to buy a plastic sleeve for this issue, and I'm going to save it and give it to my children when I try humbly in my own words to explain this election, this turning point in American history. More than any textbook, more than any videotape or Oliver Stone movie, Newsweek has captured this living, breathing history and packaged it in a way that you can't help but pass it on.
I wanted to leave you with an excerpt, but I suspect that like me, you'll want to read the whole thing for yourself, cover to cover, helping you to process the enormity of the past two years.