COVER: "Special Democratic Convention Issue" (p. 22). Newsweek previews
the Democratic National Convention. Editor Jon Meacham opens the cover
package with an in-depth look at the unique and often complex relationships
Obama has had with his father, stepfather and grandfather, and explores how
these relationships shaped him into who he is today. Meacham writes that
while growing up, Obama had to find a way to be comfortable in his own
skin, reconciling his black and white ancestries while being raised largely
by his white grandparents. "Without a father, he was forced to arm himself
and to make his own way into the worlds he chose to join and to master." In
an interview, Obama tells Newsweek that although his father was absent
while growing up, he still had a big influence. "I think [my strength]
actually comes, in my case, from the absence of a father. At some level I
had to raise myself. My mother obviously was the dominant influence in my
life, and I had a stepfather and a grandfather who both participated in
raising me and were good men who did good things for me. But if I think
about how I have been able to navigate some pretty tricky situations in my
life, it has to do with the fact that I had to learn to trust my own
judgment; I had to learn to fight for what I wanted."
"Making the Most of Mom" (p. 36). Senior Editor Howard Fineman writes that while Obama got his dreams from his father, he will likely get his votes from his mother. "That will be the aim of much of the pageantry at the Democratic convention," Fineman writes. "In the saga of Ann Dunham and her parents, the campaign sees a mother lode of votes: a biographical 'narrative' to show he understands the economic fears and cultural cues of white middle-class voters in swing states."
"So What If He Were Muslim?" (p. 37). Contributing Editor Ellis Cose writes that this election was not supposed to be a journey into the terrain of religious fears and prejudice. "But because many Americans think Obama is not what he actually is, it has become that." Cose adds that pollsters found that some 45 percent of voters were wary of Muslim candidates. "For Obama, that is a potential problem-particularly in a race that shows ever more signs of being extremely close." Cose also argues that there should be room for an intelligent discussion of religious bigotry and whether religion actually makes a difference in how one governs. "At some point, these are issues thoughtful people will need to face head-on-rather than cede the ground to propagandists who traffic in intolerance, and who, deprived of the ability to make racial slurs with impunity, simply shift their focus to religion."
"What Will the Neighbors Think?" (p. 44). Special Correspondent Jacob Weisberg explores what an Obama loss would mean for the United States. "Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives," he writes. However, "if Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: the United States had its day, but in the end couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race."
HEALTH MATTERS: "Meds Schmedds, Gimme Fries" (p. 13). Senior Writer Claudia Kalb reports on the challenges some parents encounter when children with a chronic illnesses, including diabetes, asthma, food allergies and HIV, hit adolescence and need to learn to take charge of their own health when what they really want to do is ditch the meds and hang out with their friends. "Testing the limits is a normal part of adolescence," says Dr. Paul Strumph, chief medical officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. "But they don't understand the long-term consequences."
JONATHAN ALTER: "I'm Rubber, You're Glue..." (p. 53). Senior Editor Jonathan Alter writes that the success of the McCain and the Obama campaigns depend on the "stickiness" of what they do and say between now and election day. "Modern campaigns are about flinging 10 things against the wall every day and hoping something sticks. Everything else, from fund-raising to advertising (paid for by the fund-raising) to speechmaking to Web strategy, is in the service of applying that adhesive, either to cement the candidate's message or muck up the other guy's engine with sludge," Alter writes. "That's because memorable lines, images, gaffes and monikers act like a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe ... In the world of marketing, 'sticky branding' means intentionally creating an emotional attachment to a consumer product."
EDUCATION: "An Unlikely Gambler" (p. 54). National Correspondent Eve Conant and Washington Correspondent Pat Wingert report that Michelle Rhee's bold gamble of firing bad teachers and paying good ones six-figure salaries, she may just save D.C.'s public schools and hopefully others around the country. Rhee, who took over as head of Washington, D.C., public schools a year ago, is working to correct a system of education that puts "the interests of adults" over the "interests of children." She is entering into a struggle with the local teachers union that will test whether an urban school district can weed out its weak teachers -- a profound threat to politically powerful teachers unions nationwide. "If she can pull it off, it's big," says her mentor, Joel Klein, the head of New York City public schools.
ROBERT J. SAMUELSON: "The Rise of Fantasy Politics" (p. 61). Contributing Editor Robert J. Samuelson writes that we've entered an era of fantasy politics. "Like fantasy football and baseball, fantasy politics is an exercise in make-believe that is intended to keep its players occupied and to make the winners feel good." Samuelson argues that while Barack Obama and John McCain emit pleasing slogans and programs, they are often disconnected from the country's actual problems. "The most exhaustive examination of the McCain and Obama budget proposals I've found comes from the Tax Policy Center," Samuelson writes. "Though details differ, neither plan would realistically limit spending or eliminate deficits. This is especially true when the Obama and McCain health proposals are considered. Both would cost far more than $1 trillion over a decade, says the Tax Policy Center."
SHARON BEGLEY: "The Geography of Personality" (p. 65). Senior Editor Sharon Begley looks at why people from different regions are more prone to certain behaviors. About 20 years ago scientists established that combinations of five basic dimensions-extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to new ideas and experiences-account for all personalities. Armed with the resulting data, scientists are showing that personality predicts such important outcomes as health, job performance and academic success. But, Begley writes, there is also "good evidence that the customs and institutions that arise from the dominant personality of a place can shape the personalities of people who are not that way to begin with."
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