29 August 2008

Scene from an Untitled Obama Documentary

In a special screening of part of an as yet untitled documentary in the making, Jenna and I got to see Obama on the campaign trail in Iowa at the beginning of 2008. I wish we could get the footage on the Internet. In one scene, Obama tells a small group of supporters on the eve of the Iowa caucus, in a talk held in a public school weight room, about a conversation he and Michelle Obama had recently had.

We're only going to do this once, he recalls Michelle saying. He goes on to elaborate what that means. At the start of the campaign, he and Michelle were still very much a part of the common electorate. They had only finished paying off their student loans in the last three years. Imagine that. A candidate for president who so closely understands the day-to-day frustrations of the American middle class. They still remembered with startling clarity what it was like to live in a condo that was too small for their growing family. They had not yet become the stars that, as it turns out, they are destined to become. Obama's point was, after this campaign, they never get to go back and be as close to the middle class as they were in that moment.

The above paragraph does little to capture the scene. It is Obama at his best. After the screening, I asked the filmmakers if they would be posting any of their work online, because this is the Obama that undecided voters need to see. Unfortunately, they replied, FEC rules forbid the use of this work for campaign purposes. They'll only be able to release their work after the election. Besides, they said, the campaign has plenty of grade-A material of its own. They don't need our help, she said.

I'm not so sure about that.