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July 31, 2008


Josh Marshall would not approve:

"No news publication has dared to barely scratch the surface like this before," columnist and campaign reporter Michael King wrote in The Washington Post Tuesday. "This profile sets a benchmark for mindless filler by which all other features about Sen. Obama will now be judged. Just impressive puff-journalism all around."

The 24-page profile, entitled "Boogyin' With Barack," hit newsstands Monday and contains photos of the candidate as a baby, graduating from Columbia University, standing and laughing, holding hands with his wife and best friend, Michelle, greeting a crowd of blue-collar autoworkers, eating breakfast with diner patrons, and staring pensively out of an airplane window while a pen and legal pad rest comfortably on his lowered tray table.

According to political analysts, the Time piece features the most lack-of-depth reporting on Obama ever published, and for the first time reveals a number of inconsequential truths about the candidate, including how he keeps in shape on the campaign trail, and which historical figures the presidential hopeful would choose to have dinner with.

"The sheer breadth of fluff in this story is something to be marveled at," New York Times Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet said. "It's all here. Favorite books, movies, meals, and seasons of the year ranked one through four. Sure, we asked Obama what his favorite ice cream was, but Time did us one better and asked, 'What's your favorite ice cream, really?'"

Time managing editor Rich Stengel said he was proud of the Obama puff piece, and that he hoped it would help to redefine the boundaries of journalistic drivel.

"When the American people cast their vote this November, this is the piece of fluff they're going to remember," Stengel said. "Not the ones by Newsweek, Harper's, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Economist, Nightline, The Wall Street Journal, or even that story about lessons Obama learned from his first-grade teacher we ran a month ago."

The article, which follows Obama for 12 days during his campaign, was written by reporter Chris Sherwood, and is relentless in its attempt to capture the candidate at his most poised and polished. Sherwood said the profile easily trumps all other fluff pieces in its effort to expose the presidential candidate for who he really is: "an awesome guy."

"My editors told me that if I wanted to uncover the most frivolous, trivial information on Obama, I had to be prepared to follow the puff," Sherwood said. "That meant that not only did I have to stay and watch Sen. Obama play endless games of basketball with city firemen to show readers how athletic and youthful he is, but I also had to go to NBA shooting experts to learn what aspects of his jump shot are good and what parts are great."

Sherwood said he was granted full access to the candidate, and was permitted by chief strategist David Axelrod to ask any question he desired—an opportunity the reporter used to lob the easiest softballs at Obama yet, ranging from how happy he felt when he met his wife to what songs are currently on his iPod playlist. Sherwood was also fearless in his effort to paint the candidate as someone who is "surprisingly down to earth," a phrase that is used a total of 26 times throughout the feature.

"If we were going to get the story we wanted, it was my responsibility as a journalist to ask the really tough questions to his two young daughters," said Sherwood, who grilled Malia and Sasha Obama, 9 and 7, about whether they were "proud of [their] daddy." "I also had to capitalize on every opportunity to compare the story of Obama's upbringing and rise to power to that of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s and John F. Kennedy's, no matter how suspect those parallels really are."

We had to check the byline. For a moment we were convinced Dana Milbanks had deserted our hometown paper.

Update: regarding MikeD's comment, fear not loyal readers.

The Editorial Staff only happened upon this juicy bit of snark b/c Intrepid Reader bthun had sent us this, thus sending our peripatetic staff of itinerant Eskimo typists into paroxysms of glee.

Posted by Cassandra at July 31, 2008 07:57 AM

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Please oh please tell me you know that this is from the Onion? I'd so hate to be laughing at you (as opposed to with you). I'll assume you did and enjoy the chuckle together.

Posted by: MikeD at July 31, 2008 10:14 AM


Posted by: Cass at July 31, 2008 10:18 AM

Free the Eskimos from indenture!

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 31, 2008 10:36 AM

"For a moment we were convinced Dana Milbanks had deserted our hometown paper."

Now I'm frightened. Just how many Dana Milbanks are there?

Of course, given this recent outburst, maybe there are at least two.

I know. I know, :D

Posted by: socialism_is_error at July 31, 2008 10:53 AM

"premature drape measuring."
Zuch a joovenile reflexive aktion, yet et dizplayz a zerious lack of confidence despite zee boisterous bravado.

I vood rekommend zat zee young mahn relax and learn to enjoy hez drapery. Und if zee anxiety perziztz, zenn zee young man zhood zee a qualified doktour to help him be content with zee drapery zat he vahz given. It may be all he ever haz. Dont vurry, be happy.

Posted by: Dr. Ruth at July 31, 2008 01:14 PM

We know how he keeps in shape on the campiagn trail.
He ignores the troops.

Posted by: Cricket at July 31, 2008 02:05 PM

"We know how he keeps in shape on the campiagn trail.
He ignores the troops."
That and under my tutelage the apprentice has a strict regimen of following exercises;

Upper lip curls...
And a one and a two and a one and a two.
Then sneer, then smile, then wave and point...

Posted by: Sith Lord Ovaltine at August 1, 2008 09:42 AM