How to Write a Personal Profile: Foreign Policy Edition

One of my favourite genres of journalism is the personal profile. And not only, or even primarily, because people are inherently interesting. It’s because the form allows you to do so much, often in unexpected ways. I am thinking of recent classics like Edward Luce’s profile of Charles Murray or Edith Zimmerman’s profile of Chris Evans.

Today we have another extremely strong entrant into that field from David Samuels profiling Obama advisor Ben Rhodes at the New York Times. You think you’re reading a quirky, sympathetic human interest story about a writer-turned-political-staffer. Instead, it’s a brutal critique of Rhodes, the Obama White House, its foreign policy, the Iran deal, and centre-left journalism. I don’t agree with Samuels ideologically. But I can’t deny that he uncovers really unsavoury things, and that he frames them brilliantly.

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