There's one good reason Gwen Ifill, the host of the PBS show Washington Week, is moderating the vice-presidential debate: she has a forthcoming book about Barack Obama (and other black Democrats) called The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ifill talks about the book project on YouTube here.
In addition to her portrait of Obama, Ifill will also investigate Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a close friend of Obama's; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who Ifill describes as "very charismatic" in the video; and Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama. "They all chose to get into politics for the most upstanding of reasons, and they all have achieved much more than their parents could have hoped." It doesn't hurt that it's made Obama a mega-best-selling multi-millionaire author.
Ifill presents Obama and the others as the idealistic successors of Martin Luther King: "This book is about a generation of people who took seriously the achievements that their parents fought for. They knew that Martin Luther King did what he did so they can do what they’re doing, and they decided to follow through."
The obvious question in all this is whether Ifill is not merely writing about a "breakthrough" for Obama and the new generation of black Democrats, but rooting and wishing and hoping for it. The less obvious question that her liberal friends might ask: why no profiles of black female politicians in your book?
Michelle Malkin has more -- including how Ifill profiled the Obamas for the black magazine Essence.
Our 2004 Media Reality Check on Gwen's Greatest Hits is here.
UPDATE: In an interview with her former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz earlier this month, Ifill suggested people like Obama (with their "immense accomplishments") are somehow left out of the "lazy" racial dialogue, and expanded on the need for what supporters call affirmative action:
"We're very lazy when we think about race in this country," Ifill says. "We try to put it in a box. It's Jesse versus Al, or Jesse and Al versus everyone else," she says, referring to Jackson and Sharpton. "We love simplistic conflict. There's a whole group of people who have Ivy League degrees and immense accomplishments who actually benefited from the things their parents were fighting for."
So why aren't there more of them in the media ranks at the Republican convention?
"You have to look hard," Ifill says. "That's a failure of news organizations, mostly newspapers, to support and promote people of color."
Again, we need to ask: does Ifill want the elites to "support and promote people of color" from Ivy League colleges just in the media....or all the way to the White House?