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September 13, 2021 12 min

This week, Brie spoke to political scientist, activist, former professor and writer Norm Finkelstein about his new book on identity politics and cancel culture. Specifically, he asked Brie to critique his chapter on Barack Obama, and how his identity was weaponized to sell his 2008 candidacy as having revolutionary potential that could meet the scale of the Great Recession. History has shown that Obama's no leftist, but Finkelstein's critique goes beyond Obama's policy commitments (or lack thereof) to interrogate the extent to which the  narrative of Obama as an exceptional intellect and politician is, itself, a fiction.  Did Obama really earn his spot on the Harvard Law Review, or was he a beneficiary of White liberal guilt? Is Finkelstein overly strident in his critique, or is Brie overly sensitive about critiques that center Obama's intellect and ability rather than his policy commitments? What can we learn from the people Obama surrounded himself with -- from speech writers to senior advisors -- and is Brie right that how we critique Obama matters nearly as much as the critique itself? This was a hot one, but a good one. We cut this interview down by over an hour, and end with Ben and Brie summarizing takeaways from this interview and last week's chat with Talia Lavin, and reflecting on Brie's approach to interviews and how she can continue to improve.

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