Magazine article Newsweek

The Editor's Desk

Magazine article Newsweek

The Editor's Desk

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Klaidman

When Barack Obama burst onto the national political stage in 2004, there were many things about him that Americans found fresh and intriguing. He was young and optimistic; he seemed able to rise above the nasty partisanship that's corroded our politics in recent years. He was a candidate of conviction who also was able to empathize with his ideological foes. But there was something else about Obama that was more intangible: the ease with which he talked about race, a subject that is as central to the American narrative as it is fraught. It's a quality surely born of his restless search to understand his own identity--as the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas whose childhood was divided between Hawaii and Indonesia.

But can Obama sustain that easygoing confidence over many months under the glare of a national campaign? And can he appeal broadly to both blacks and whites, as he'll need to do in order to win? That's what Richard Wolffe and Daren Briscoe set off to find out for this week's cover story, which was edited by Bret Begun and Jeff Bartholet. What they learned says a lot about both Obama and America. Richard found a candidate who was refreshingly anxious to take on the toughest questions of racial politics. Even after our interviews had ended, he insisted on offering unprompted views about the scale of the challenge. Daren was struck by the willingness of ordinary people--African-Americans and whites--to shelve their assumptions about race when assessing Obama. …

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