Best Of The Dish 2007: Why Obama Matters


Well, this isn’t strictly a Dish item, it’s my Atlantic cover-story. But as the primaries approach, and Iowa beckons, here’s my case for talking the Obama candidacy seriously.

When I was going over the page-proofs in October, I had a sinking feeling that I was making a fool out of myself. Clinton was still riding high, everyone in DC assumed that Obama had no serious chance, and the lead time for the piece gave me heart-burn. In the end, writing the piece was an act of faith in what I had tried to understand and witness as I reported and mulled the piece the previous three months. My editor, James Bennet, steeled my nerves and we went ahead. I’m glad we did.

First published on November 4, 2007:

The logic behind the candidacy of Barack Obama is not, in the end, about Barack Obama. It has little to do with his policy proposals, which are very close to his Democratic rivals’ and which, with a few exceptions, exist firmly within the conventions of our politics. It has little to do with Obama’s considerable skills as a conciliator, legislator, or even thinker. It has even less to do with his ideological pedigree or legal background or rhetorical skills. Yes, as the many profiles prove, he has considerable intelligence and not a little guile. But so do others, not least his formidably polished and practiced opponent Senator Hillary Clinton.

Obama, moreover, is no saint.

Continued here. An interview about the essay with Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is here.