The Documentary “The Final Year” Shows What the Obama White House Was Doing While We Were Obsessing Over Donald Trump

Julia Felsenthal in Vogue:

00-story-the-final-yearIn early December of 2016, a childhood friend then working at the Department of Commerce invited me to Washington, D.C., to attend a holiday party at the White House. It was only a month or so after the election returns had come in, well, not quite the way we’d all anticipated. My friends in New York were still largely catatonic. Everyone I knew who wasn’t a white man was genuinely pretty afraid. Everyone I knew in media was also scared: about Trump’s rhetorical disregard for constitutionally protected press freedom, sure, but also about the reality, only just beginning to settle in, that nothing was going to go back to normal. Even those of us (me included) who weren’t political journalists had pivoted in the past several months to covering—at first gleefully, then grudgingly, then bitterly—the vagaries of the wildly careening Trump campaign. We had considered it a temporary concession to a very unexpected, unprecedented moment. We had thought we would all go back to our regular jobs and our regular beats and our regular lives, not to mention our regularly noncommittal relationship with news out of Washington. But no, that wasn’t likely to happen. There was actually no end in sight.

Naturally I accepted the invitation. A few weeks prior I had gotten married at City Hall in Manhattan, in a silky white jumpsuit and a cream tuxedo jacket—an outfit that suddenly seemed perfect for Christmas chez Obama. Aside from the dress code I knew very little about what to expect. Inside the White House the decorations were cheery—snowmen and outlandish gingerbread houses and a gigantic stuffed replica of First Dog Bo cordoned off by a gold rope—but the mood was not. There was a sense that we were there to bear witness, not just to celebrate the end of a year or the end of a presidency, but to observe the end of an era.

More here.