A Remarkable Article by Ron Fournier


Our Atlantic-world colleague Ron Fournier, of National Journal, has written a remarkable long article that I promise you will not regret taking the time to read. It is not what most readers would have expected from Fournier, who is best known for very hard-headed political coverage at NJ and before that for many years with AP. Instead it is a personal, unsparing, often beautiful account of family struggle featuring an improbable cast of main characters: Fournier and his wife Lori; their son Tyler, who has Asperger's syndrome; plus Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

For instance, Fournier offers this moment, after an extended father-and-son road trip across they country he has taken with Tyler as a bonding exercise. He asks Tyler what he got from the experience:

"All I got out of it was time with you," he says, laughing. "No offense." I tell Tyler there's got to be a better way to end our story than saying we spent time together. "This isn't Twilight," he says, referring to the film saga he wouldn't be caught dead watching. "This is you and me. Just write that we like to spend time together. That's a big deal for a kid like me."

It would be a big deal for me--if I believed him. The fact is, he'd rather be alone, and I can accept that now, because the aversion to social contact is part of who Tyler is. But he is telling me what he knows I want to hear, and that's progress for my empathy-challenged Aspie.

The views of Clinton and Bush -- as actual human beings, rather than public figures -- are precisely rendered and revealing. Fournier's vignettes don't change what we think of either man, but they extend it in interesting ways -- and to the credit of both, but especially for Bush. I'll stop describing and suggest that you set aside time to read it yourself.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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