Since when does watching cable news count as journalism?
Everyone has a story to tell from the 2008 election. You'd figure New Republic Senior Editor Michael Crowley's campaign quest would be especially compelling, a chaotic amalgam of backroom anecdotes, serendipitous scoops, outtakes, bloopers, poignant observations from the next generation of journalists. You expect emotion, drama, characters more human and idiosyncratic than a 5-second clip can even imply. You expect that he experienced something truly amazing in the process of news gathering just as you would expect him to engage the reader's imagination and intellect with backstage insight into the political craft.
With "08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail,
" Crowley has given us the the 2008 Election According to TiVo.
Crowley's back of the book bio bills him as "senior editor at the New Republic and a frequent political commentator on MSNBC." Based on its contents, that second credit explains it all.
The main characters are all talking heads--Chris Matthews, Jon Stewart, Fred Barnes, Ann Coulter--and the politicians themselves, but only their televised lines. In fact, there isn't a line or event in the book that wasn't televised, and Crowley's narration could easily (and profitably) be repackaged as "1001 Cliches of the 2008 Election."
Crowley also inartfully betrays his grudges and crushes, describing Fred Thompson repeatedly as "lazy" and Obama and "one smooth looking dude." But then again, it's not even Crowley's diary: He creates two fictional commentators--a hard-boiled, chain-smoking old-school reporter and a Ed Norton-lookin' college-boy blogger--who disappear for long tracts of the book, only to reappear with obnoxiously obvious asides. "You're watching history coming alive before your eyes, son" the older tells the younger. Um, duh. Their roles are miniscule, wasted ink.
Speaking of ink: If Crowley's stealing his words from other pundits, then artist Dan Goldman is merely tracing the faces from freezed frames. The art's noir-realism, which would work with more original writing, not Crowley's melodrama overdrive. (Extreme example: "For Obama, the day before the election brought tragedy"....[Voice bubble from a tear-streamed Obama: 'My grandmother who helped raise me passed away this morning. She's gone home.] "But her vote, cast by absentee ballot before her death, would still COUNT.")
Anyway, that's my rant. But, New Mexico readers will want to know how Gov. Bill Richardson fared in Crowley's version of the election. Well... He was reduced to two soundbites from the primary, one of his own and one describing him. Can you guess?
Page scans after the jump.
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Click to enlarge.