Journalists can be notorious for twisting quotes out of context, but where do these quotes come from in the first place? Their choice of sources is often the larger crime. Think about it…
I just finished reading Ryan Lizza’s The New Yorker article, “Making It”, which chronicles Barack Obama’s roller-coaster relationship with Chicago politics in the 1990s. He played the game to win…yada yada…stepped on some toes…yada yada. Obama rarely brings people’s focus to that time in his life, preferring to concentrate on his successes at Harvard, his community organizing, and his recent (“let’s change the nation”) political career. Lizza speculates that this omission is intentional, that Obama has something to hide. I beg to disagree. He was learning the rules, and that meant playing and experimenting with loyalties and messages. Can you really blame him? How else can one hope to become master of the game?
I liken it to High School. Now all his old “cool kid” friends from Chicago are bitter he never kept up with them through college. He left them behind. He had to. By their very nature, political loyalties are stifling, centered on interpersonal obligations, and crippling to any notion of change. No one in “the ol’ boys club” has the wherewithal to peek over the shoulder of the back they’re scratching. Contrary to Lizza’s take, I find Obama’s “perceived” betrayals heartening. Here is a man who has learned the rules, but has the guts to bend them to his vision’s needs. A little toe stepping gives him the freedom to move forward, provided he can still cultivate trust and confidence when necessary.
A journalist’s choice of sources will colour any reader’s view of the subject being profiled. Obama comes out of Lizza’s article looking conniving instead of astute, underhanded instead of strategic. And sure, if you asked my high school boyfriends to paint my portrait, I would come out looking like, well, a whole lot like the 2-D canvas of Dorian Gray. I’ll be honest, there may be some “minor” toe stepping to blame lol. I was still learning the rules of the game *wink*. Ask my other (past/present) contacts, and I’d like to think you’d get a more three-dimensional person, hopefully suggesting a keen mind and loving heart – and Oh Oh, can’t forget, possibly with great hair too ; )
(Image source: The New Yorker)