04.10.10

David Remnick's 'Bridge' to Obama

The New Yorker editor returns to his roots as a reporter with a new biography of Barack Obama. WATCH VIDEO of his conversation with Tina Brown about what Obama left out of his memoirs.

What More Is There to Say About Obama?

In writing The Bridge and taking up President Obama's biography, Remnick enters territory that has been explored before—by Obama himself, no less, in his memoir, Dreams From My Father. Before starting, Remnick says, "I had to convince myself that we didn't know everything from the memoir." And according to Remnick, we don't: Obama's memoir is "not a false, but a highly shaped notion of reality," he says. "That's not journalism. That's not scholarship. It's a different thing."

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The Women in Obama's Life

During the campaign, Michelle Obama got nearly as much press as her husband, and while the president's approval ratings have fallen since his election, the first lady has remained high in public esteem. Remnick positions her as a counterweight to Obama's capricious, sometimes absent mother. "I think she's the key to a lot of things. Without getting into, you know, psychobabble, she comes from a stable, African-American, South Side of Chicago family. She is the epitome of what he seemed to be looking for."

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Hillary's "Lousy Break" and Obama's "Brilliant Move"

Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary has been mitigated somewhat by her appointment as secretary of State. But how does that relationship work, given the furor of the campaign? "It was a brilliant move" for Obama, says Remnick, and while the president respects Clinton's hard work, "clearly, foreign policy is being made in the West Wing." And if that's a surprise? "Newsflash: Barack Obama is a politician ... He was a politician from the first day he ran."

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Obama and The New Yorker

For better or for worse, The New Yorker's coverage of Obama has generated criticism from both fans and foes of the president. But Remnick doesn't think the magazine was ever "too soft" on Obama—no articles "riddled with inaccuracy and gooeyness" were ever published, while some, like Ryan Lizza's acclaimed article about Obama's time in Chicago, were "just the opposite." As for the famous July 2008 cover, which lampooned right-wing paranoia by showing the Obamas as radical terrorists occupying the West Wing? Remnick says he would do it again.

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How Obama Exploded onto the Political Scene

In 2004, Barack Obama was just another Senate candidate—until he gave a soaring speech at the Democratic convention. How would his life be different without that moment? "I can't imagine that he'd be president,” Remnick says. But it's not all charisma. "Obama has 'it,' star power,” Remnick says. “But he's got a lot else. Sarah Palin has 'it,' if you like that form of 'it,' and not a hell of a lot else."

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Is Obama’s Heath-Care Victory Enough?

How does Remnick rate the Obama presidency so far? While giving him credit for succeeding at passing health-care reform, Remnick says he's still concerned about certain policies that remain "unchanged from the Bush administration.”

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Click here to see this interview as one continuous segment.

Click here to read a transcript.