Presidential campaigns eventually settle into contrasting narratives of the candidates' biographies, character and ideology. The central fault line in the seemingly endless Democratic race has been change vs. experience. Hillary Clinton has argued relentlessly that her years in the White House and Senate have made her battle-hardened and best suited to be president. Barack Obama, by contrast, has questioned the value of Washington experience, contending that his wide-ranging background has imbued him with superior judgment. But the truth is that until recently, neither of them had run anything as unwieldy and unpredictable as a modern presidential campaign. Now they have, and as Obama stands poised to capture his party's nomination, we examine the organization he assembled and has quarterbacked for the last 18 months. Richard Wolffe, the coauthor of our cover story with Evan Thomas, has covered three White House campaigns starting with George W. Bush's in 2000. He knows that though campaigns are not true measures of the potential for presidential greatness, they offer meaningful glimpses into character. "Campaigns offer voters a stress test that shows the candidate under fire—a dry run of the pressures in the West Wing," says Richard. Obama has passed the first heat, building a formidable $250 million machine from scratch and mapping out a sophisticated 50-state strategy that's drawn on huge grass-roots enthusiasm. But now comes the hard part for the O Team. Can they withstand an onslaught from John McCain and the Republicans, who've been biding their time while the Dems have been roughing each other up?
Lally Weymouth, NEWSWEEK's special diplomatic correspondent, is a formidable interrogator of presidents, monarchs and dictators. This week she's a triple threat. On the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary, Lally scored interviews with Shimon Peres, the country's president and the last of its founding generation still in office; Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, and Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert. Besides opining on the current state of Middle East peace negotiations, Olmert, the target of a criminal investigation into campaign-finance irregularities, reveals he has weighed stepping down.
Great reporting requires talent, instinct—native or honed through experience—and serendipity. That's equally true of the best photojournalism. When a tropical cyclone devastated Burma on May 2, we saw all those qualities on display here at NEWSWEEK. The early reports were sketchy, but Simon Barnett, our director of photography, sensed they were ominously bad. He also knew that getting images out of a repressive dictatorship like Burma's would be a challenge. "We realized that this disaster, unfolding in a poor, remote country, devoid of technology, would be the domain of the professional photojournalist—if any happened to be in the country at the time," Simon recalls. His international photo editors, James Wellford in New York and Bija Bociek in London, reached out to their network of photographers and found several who had made it into Burma. The results, obtained rapidly and under extreme circumstances, are the wrenching images by photojournalists Will Baxter and Ayalung Thaksin that we publish, along with an essay by Melinda Liu, in this week's magazine. Simon, a bighearted Welshman, believes passionately in the power of news photography. "We commit these resources for the simple reason that if we as a public don't see these tragedies, we care less about them. The power of still images can change things, and I hope they do." A noble sentiment backed up by hard work.