2019年11月22日 星期五

The Daily: How We Chose a Moment for Pete Buttigieg

The story behind the first part of our new series on presidential candidates.

By clare toeniskoetter and luke vander ploeg

Pete Buttigieg in studio with Michael Barbaro.Calla Kessler/The New York Times

Today’s episode kicks off “The Candidates,” a new series from “The Daily” that profiles the four top-polling Democratic presidential contenders: Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Producers Clare Toeniskoetter and Luke Vander Ploeg told us about how they approached the first episode:

For this series, we’re focusing on one defining moment in the lives of the top candidates, a moment that reveals who they are, explains what motivates them and helps us understand their political identity.

Four candidates. Four moments. Four episodes. Up first: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Picking one moment for Buttigieg was difficult. At age 37, he hasn’t had a long political career or much time on the national stage. But as we dove into his life story, political correspondent Jeremy Peters brought us back to one of the elements that makes this campaign historic. Buttigieg is the first openly gay candidate for president of the United States with a chance of becoming his party’s nominee. What if we focused on his coming out story?

We wondered if this angle was too personal. But Jeremy pointed out that, in the case of Buttigieg, his coming out story captured a central tension in his political narrative.


Much of the mayor’s biography can seem orchestrated for a presidential run: Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar, veteran, Midwesterner. For most of his life, Buttigieg didn’t include his identity as a gay man in that public story. Unlike parts of his resume that seemed so carefully planned, this was beyond his control. And it was an identity that, for a long time, he didn’t believe could line up with his political ambitions.

His coming out story marked the moment when he chose to reconcile a carefully constructed public image with an important part of himself that he’d kept secret. That’s the moment we asked him to talk about for today’s episode.

When Buttigieg and his aides arrived at our recording studio, they’d just gotten off a long flight. They asked, first, for coffee. And then, after a photographer had taken a few pictures, Buttigieg settled into the studio with Michael. During a more than hourlong conversation, he told his story — one where being an out gay man has now become central to his political image.

As he says at the end of the episode, it’s strange for him to think that “the one thing that might have meant that it would be better not to have any aspirations related to politics at all could be the very thing that anchors the moral and emotional purpose of this entire campaign.”


While listening to the interview, we both were struck by his ease as a storyteller and his way of weaving the details of his life into a narrative. We’ll be looking to see how Buttigieg’s story of himself continues to play out on the campaign trail in the coming weeks, and whether Democratic voters will connect with it.

P.S. One candidate in our series has not yet agreed to sit down with us for an interview. Any guesses?

Talk to Clare on Twitter: @claretoenis. And Luke: @LukeVanderPloeg.

To the left, to the left

Producer Monika Evstatieva with Astead Herndon. You’re both irreplaceable.Monika Evstatieva/The New York Times

Reporter Astead Herndon did a little Beyoncé karaoke in Wednesday’s episode — and many of you took note. We asked Astead if we could share his full performance in today’s newsletter. Within seconds, he said yes. Listen here.

Pomp and circumstance (but not too much)

Dan Powell, our engineer, on composing the theme music for “The Latest,” a new podcast about the impeachment inquiry:

Scoring a podcast is a balancing act. The music should complement the narrative without drawing too much attention to itself, and it should be interesting enough that you don’t get tired of it. As a composer, I’ve always been impressed by the way the theme song for “The Daily” achieves both.

For our new podcast series “The Latest,” I was tasked with rearranging the “Daily” theme song in a way that embodies the gravity of the impeachment hearings. The challenge was to do this without going overboard on the whole “Pomp and Circumstance” thing.

So I tried making the drums sound more booming and orchestral — more like something you’d hear in a concert hall. The electric piano part is revoiced with a viola, and the main melody is played on a cello, with long, sustaining notes that are a touch more somber than the original. The overall result is a regal, march-like iteration of the theme song that I hope communicates the historic nature of the subject matter while keeping us tethered to the sonic world of a New York Times podcast.

Look up any hit pop song from the last decade, and there’s likely a pared-down string quartet arrangement of it to be found. Listen to a few, and you’ll find that the best, most enduring songs are the ones that still have you tapping your feet, even when the layers of production and studio magic are stripped away. It’s a testament to the quality of the “Daily” theme song that it works so well even when we change it up. But will we ever have an episode that requires a tropical house remix? That’s yet to be determined, but I secretly hope we do.

On ‘The Daily’ this week

Monday: Amy Chozick on how the dream of WeWork crumbled — and why the man responsible for the wreckage walked away with more than $1 billion.

Tuesday: Corporations pledged investment in exchange for a $1.5 trillion tax cut. Jim Tankersley looks at whether that actually happened.

Wednesday: Astead Herndon followed Kamala Harris to South Carolina to understand how she went from a top-tier, front-runner candidate to middle of the pack.

Thursday: Nick Fandos on how Democrats and Republicans handled the most complicated witness in the impeachment inquiry to date: Gordon Sondland, who directly implicated President Trump in a quid pro quo, but whose reliability has been questioned.

Friday: In the first episode of “The Candidates,” Pete Buttigieg talks about how his lifelong political ambitions were complicated by the secret he kept for decades.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. We’re off next week. See you in December.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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