Watching W., I was struck by the feeling that Stone picked a bunch of mostly public moments from George W. Bush's career over the past 8 years, mixed in a few more from some research, and connected the dots, as if the past 8 years of national and international history flowed logically and inevitably from the parts we have seen or imagined. Everything pretty much hung together -- no unknown/undocumented causes for events we saw in the movie.
This is clearly a conceit, as obviously there have been more than 129 significant minutes during Bush's presidency and earlier life.
Watching the election returns and the early post-mortems, we saw the talking heads arguing about whether McCain's slide in the polls were triggered by his statement that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," or by Sarah Palin's Katie Couric interview. They both cited polling data with a clear drop-off around that time, and only disagreed on which of those events was the trigger.
After the election, I heard people say Obama's election was particularly welcome in Europe, "because he looks like them."
Most recently, I read Newsweek's extensive embargoed coverage of the campaigns (Obama's, McCain's, & Clinton's), and noticed that those clearly well-informed reporters explained the election outcome as an inevitable victory of superior campaigning skill and organization. They clearly think that excellent communications can make any candidate more attractive, and focused on the campaign more than the issues -- at least partially their mandate was to follow the campaign, rather than to opine after the election on who would have made a better president. Additionally, if the article had a message about which candidate would have been a better president, publishing it after the election would have been negligent.
Throughout all this, I find myself wondering: who thinks issues were the deciding issue of the campaign? Apparently not pollsters, who are tie poll results to external events (McCain's statement was not a change in policy, and neither were Palin's interviews).
Did Obama win because McCain and Palin made a serious gaffe or two, rather than because of what they all believe or plan, or how intelligent they are? Will Obama be president and democrats run Congress because the financial markets, after smoking for a year, finally began to implode in August 2008, rather than mid-November? Will Obama be president and dictate US policy for the next 8 years, ultimately because his get-out-the-vote staffers were more up-to-date? Those possibilities are all, frankly, disturbing.
Amy gave me a New Yorker article that talks about Obama as the successful campaigner and fund-raiser (fair -- he has relatively little history in government, and none as an executive), but at least they are aware of the disconnect between campaigning and governing -- most pundits appear to think that the campaign area they are closest to is Obama's defining characteristic.