Bernie Sanders on Washington

In the new Rolling Stone:

The truth is, Washington is a very strange world. Before this campaign, I would always go home to Vermont on weekends. That's where we did town meetings, that's where I was with my family. And I would find when I would come back to Washington, I would suddenly feel myself a little bit depressed. It was the transition of coming from Vermont back to D.C.

There is a style here, a way of life here in D.C., which is significantly phony. In that everybody is nice to each other — "Oh, my good and honorable friend" — and then they're spending $18 million to try to destroy who you are. That's the nature of it. And you've got staffers who butter up their bosses and everything else. There is a very high level of phonyism and careerism. And you go back to Vermont — and I see it in Iowa and you see it all over the country — where people are people. That's all. And when you go home, you settle into a way of life where people are people.


Artful Journalism

Some of what I underlined in Walt Harrington's new book:

1. ... most of us struggle through life seeking small redemptions, which is what many of my profiles are about: people struggling fitfully to be better people, struggling in their own ways to find mastery over their lives, to feel they are in control in the face of the conflicting demands and expectations of parents, family, and society. ... Always, I begin my research looking for continuities or rifts in each subject's life that might help clarify how he or she came to be the person he or she is.

2. In the introduction to her book Character, a collection of profiles about the presidential primary candidates of 1988, journalist Gail Sheehy wrote that she always tries to compare her subject's "personal myth" with her own reportorial assessment.

3. ... full-blown profiles need to be written differently from slice-of-life profiles. But as a ageneral rule, it seems best to create a narrative that moves through time from when the subject isn't revealed to the reader — and sometimes not even to himself — to a time when the subject is revealed.

4. The journalism of ordinary life is a way to repair the torn social fabric that hard-edged journalism has undeniably helped to shred.

5. It's the kiss of death for anyone aspiring to do intimate journalism to think of what he or she does as lighteners, brighteners or human interest stories.

6. Remember to collect, in the moviemaker's parlance, not only long shots but tight shots. My father was an amateur painter, and he used to tell me that there were two ways to paint a picture — one was to stand back and squint your eyes and see shapes and colors emerge in a beautiful blur, and the other was to get down on your knees and examine the flower, petal by petal. It's important to think of the details you're gathering in that way ...

7. You have to gather the material that you will need to make an anecdote a scene.

8. Think of your stories as pieces meant to be read out loud.

9. We have this idea in straight journalism that stories are supposed to tell themselves through the way we lay out the facts. We pretend this because it fits our mythology of objective newspaper journalism. Yet stories don't tell themselves. Mike Sager wasn't writing Greg Smith's story. He was writing Mike Sager's version of Greg Smith's story. Get used to it.

10. If a story isn't animated by an idea, it will fall flat.

11. Growing up is a pretty important part of doing grown-up work.


Maraniss on Obama

From his biography from 2012:

When examining a subject's ancestry and early life it is important to draw a distinction between revelation and responsibility. No one wants to be judged or held responsible as an adult for how they behaved in their youth, or for how their relatives behaved. That should be neither the function nor the intention of a biographer. But there is an important difference between laying blame and searching for clues to a life, and many important clues come in the early years. The point in any case is to explore that  territory in search of understanding, not retroactive condemnation. It seems obvious, but it demands explanation in the modern American political culture, where facts are so easily twisted for politcal purposes and where strange armies of ideological pseudo-historians — predominantly, these days, on the irrational flank of the political right — roam the biographical fields in search of stray ammunition.


John Cassidy in the New Yorker

Being more realistic about the role that college degrees play would help families and politicians make better choices. It could also help us appreciate the actual merits of a traditional broad-based education, often called a liberal-arts education, rather than trying to reduce everything to an economic cost-benefit analysis. “To be clear, the idea is not that there will be a big financial payoff to a liberal arts degree,” Cappelli writes. “It is that there is no guarantee of a payoff from very practical, work-based degrees either, yet that is all those degrees promise. For liberal arts, the claim is different and seems more accurate, that it will enrich your life and provide lessons that extend beyond any individual job. There are centuries of experience providing support for that notion.” Click.


Think THIS will work on my wife?

"The books are there not just because I esteem them and need to look things up, but also because they represent an external hard drive for my mind. That is, running my eye down the rows will refresh my memory, reframe my thoughts, alert me to counterexamples and lacunae in my lines of argument." Click.


How would David Simon fix the system?

"The government would finance elections. Nobody could give any fucking money to any candidate, ever." Click.


The best part of Bernie Sanders' book

He wrote Outsider in the House with his friend Huck Gutman back in 1997. I read it early on in my Sanders work. Levi is his son. This is my favorite paragraph:

One of the fun aspects of being a congressman is the different kinds of people that I meet. After we left Glover, Levi and I took a beautiful drive across the width of the state to Swanton, which is located in northwest Vermont, just south of the Canadian border. I often think how lucky I am not only to live in Vermont, but to campaign there. Driving along beautiful Vermont country roads in August, as the sun goes down, just ain't hard work. It's exactly the kind of thing I would do if I never ran for office. In the back of the car I always have a bathing suit, and it's not uncommon for us to stop midday on the campaign trail and jump into a nearby lake or river.


My 'listi-profile' of Donald Trump

I don't know that I would do it for everybody, or even could, really, but I think it worked here, this profile of Donald Trump in the words of Donald Trump in 199 things the current Republican front-runner has said.