In John Heilemann’s lengthy story on the Clintons’ impact on Obama’s presidency, he does a wonderful job of bringing it to life when it could easily be very dull.
The feature is not your typical one, for politics can be very dry sometimes especially for me, but instead Heilemann brings such humanity into the realm of politics that the reader is forced to remember that politicians are people too. Half of it might be the often overlooked relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton, which the writer sometimes gives vivid glimpses into. The other part might be contributed to by the immediacy and urgency of the writing and emotions, for even though Heilemann might happen to be talking about an event years ago, he conveys the story in such a way as to be directly behind, looking over the shoulder of the person telling the story at the time. We get to step into the ups and downs of the Clintons, as well as Barack Obama, as both his senatorial and presidential incarnations.
Also, Heilemann seems pull quotes from everywhere possible, presenting a vast array of sources and high-ranking officials to help tell the story of Clinton and Obama. With the speed and ease of the shifts between different speakers and time frames, it is hard to stop reading.
The writer sets the scene brilliantly when showing Clinton’s preparations for giving the main speech of the Democratic Convention on July 25th. It is a very humanizing look at a highly politicized figure and I cannot help but keep reading as I get to see a new side of the man who was once president:
For everyone in the room that day, the scene was at once intoxicatingly and achingly familiar. All had worked on innumerable high-stakes Clinton speeches in years past, from convention addresses to States of the Union to Election Night orations, and virtually every one had been just like this: a bunch of white guys around a table playing verbal pepper with the boss; Clinton armed with his yellow legal and a Sharpie, scratching out stanzas in his nearly illegible southpaw scrawl, handing them to his assistant to be typed up and printed out, and then furiously crossing out what he’d written and scribbling something new—periodically interrupting the flow to regale everyone with the latest jokes he’d heard.
It reminds me that everybody has weaknesses and even high-and-mighty figures cannot be perfect, which is important when connecting to readers.
Another appealing aspect about the article is the neutrality, even in the face of such fiery political tears between the sides. It is more a profile of man than a discussion of politics, almost, since Clinton dominates practically the entire article. Even Clinton shows some good sportsmanship to Romney, which Romney returns:
The Republican opened with a well-turned line regarding Clinton’s introduction of him: “If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this election season, by the way, it’s that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good—all I gotta do now is wait a couple of days for that bounce to happen.”
Heilemann periodically refers to Clinton and Obama as the numbers 42 and 44, which I did not understand until one time he calls Clinton by “42” instead of his name and I realized Heilemann was referencing the fact that Clinton is the 42nd president, while Obama is the 44th. I found this rather amusing, to say the least. I found the entire thing to be wonderful, gripping and extremely educational.