Frontline (1983– )
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The Choice 2008 

The biographies of Barack Obama and John McCain, nominated by their parties as presidential candidates in 2008.


Michael Kirk


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Episode credited cast:
Joe Allbaugh Joe Allbaugh ... Himself
David Axelrod ... Himself
Matt Bai ... Himself
Peter Baker ... Himself
Dan Balz ... Himself - The Washington Post
Bradford Berenson Bradford Berenson ... Himself
Timuel Black ... Himself (as Timuel D. Black Jr.)
Ronald Brownstein ... Himself (as Ron Brownstein)
Elisabeth Bumiller Elisabeth Bumiller ... Herself
Will Burns Will Burns ... Himself
George W. Bush ... Himself (archive footage)
Cassandra Butts Cassandra Butts ... Herself
Dick Cheney ... Himself (archive footage)
Victoria Clarke Victoria Clarke ... Herself
Hillary Clinton ... Herself (archive footage) (as Hillary Rodham Clinton)


The biographies of Barack Obama and John McCain, nominated by their parties as presidential candidates in 2008.

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Release Date:

14 October 2008 (USA) See more »

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An Outstanding Exposé of the Two Leading Candidates for the United States Presidency in 2008
27 October 2008 | by classicalsteveSee all my reviews

For 25 years, PBS' Frontline has continued to be at the forefront of the highest-quality television journalism available in the United States. Their weekly presentations air without fail at a time when objective journalism is being squeezed out by biased commentary from the likes of Fox and MSNBC. A large part of their success is the unwillingness to gloss over or soften hard-core issues, issues that some would prefer being cloaked from public scrutiny, such as the death-penalty, racism, sexism, and global warming. Frontline, to the best of its ability, attempts to present difficult issues objectively, allowing those on opposite sides a fair hearing. What they do not do is compromise on facts. "The Choice 2008" with the aid of the unmistakable voice of Will Lyman, the heart and soul of the program, takes viewers through the political journeys of senators Barack Obama and John McCain, the improbably presidential nominees of the two major political parties in the United States.

The form of "The Choice 2008" is not merely a chronological biography of the two men. Instead, the piece begins with two important speeches of 2004: Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention and the speech by McCain at the Republican National Convention. The documentary traces each man's political ascent to their 2004 speeches which in many ways was the unofficial beginning of their formal run for the presidency.

Obama, a relatively unknown state senator from Illinois, gave the keynote speech for the Democrats' national convention at the end of July, 2004. His speech became the most remembered moment of the convention, even over the acceptance speech of Senator John Kerry, the party's official nominee. Obama's speech began as a short autobiography which Frontline then uses as a segue into some of the main points regarding his early life. Simultaneously, leading democrats, such as former senator Gary Hart, comment on the impact of the speech. Frontline uses much of his speech as the outline of their depiction and characterization of Obama.

A month later, in September of 2004, John McCain appeared at the podium of the Republican National Convention. According to the documentary, McCain was not completely welcomed by the hardcore conservative crowd. His mere presence at the convention's podium was controversial. Frontline then backtracks to his 2000 campaign against then Texas Governor George W. Bush for the republican presidential nomination. It is here that McCain's characterization of being "maverick" begins to stick. It further chronicles the first four years of the Bush presidency where McCain was often at odds with the administration which distanced himself from other republicans and made the label "maverick" all the more appropriate.

The documentary then reaches into the past and chronicles each man's history and their political rise, switching between the two men's stories. The documentary does a good job of showing their high points and their low points: the controversy surrounding Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, which resulted in Obama's speech about race which some have called one of the best speeches about the issue in modern times; the scandal surrounding McCain and other senators in the late 1980's; the story of McCain's capture in Vietnam in the 1960's and his heroic survival and his election to the House then the Senate; Obama's rise through the gritty politics of Chicago. Several moments stand out, such as Obama's election to the editorship of the Harvard Law Review, and McCain's apparently defeated campaign bid early in the 2008 Republican Primary in which he rose out of the political ashes like the Phoenix.

An extremely insightful documentary whose objectiveness is unmatched by any other program of similar content regarding the 2008 campaign. My only criticism was the sound effect of camera shutters and bulbs that was used every time a still was displayed. It started to get slightly irritating after awhile. However, a small price to pay for maybe the best documentary on the subject this year. Well done.

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