We Knew Them When... : Tell Me More "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."-- Alice Roosevelt Longworth
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We Knew Them When...

We Knew Them When...

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Barack Obama, shortly after being named president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. Joe Wrinn/Harvard University hide caption

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Joe Wrinn/Harvard University

"If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
— Alice Roosevelt Longworth

I bet many of you think all reporters feel that way, but we don't. We really don't. We're gossips and snoops (of course) but that doesn't mean we're nasty about it (all the time). Which brings me to the presidential race. Can you believe how early this thing has started? We are up to something like 18 candidates — it seems like half the Senate is running, along with the former "somethings." How to keep track? How to figure out who's who and what's what?

Everybody has his or her own yardstick. When people ask me why we write about one thing or another, I always say that the voter registration card doesn't come with instructions. You use it any way you want: to support a policy, a character attribute, a religious preference. Whatever anybody else may think of the way you cast your vote, that's your business. As reporters we are often guessing about the kinds of things that may become relevant to the candidate's job, very often taking cues from the kinds of things voters say they want to know.

And what a lot of people say is that they really want to know what makes a candidate tick, because positions and issues change. But big-time politics is so managed, so scripted these days, it's hard to catch those moments that make you feel like you know the person behind the image.

That's why we thought it would be fun to begin talking to people who knew the candidates before they became the big cheeses they are today. We plan to cover every declared candidate, hopefully more than once. It won't escape your attention that the first group of people to put their hands up are those who really like these guys (and gals).

We start with Cassandra Butts, who was a law school classmate of Sen. Barack Obama, a Democrat from Illinois and now a presidential contender.

Did this conversation offer new insights into the candidate? Which candidate would you like to hear about next? And certainly, if you have ideas for good guests, do tell.

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