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Barack Obama

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the Biography Channel's profile of presidential candidate Barack Obama is two minutes longer (49 minutes in all) than the one it did on John McCain (47 minutes).

Other than that, the made-for-cable-television documentaries — which are being released on DVD Tuesday — are fairly even-handed and respectful toward each man.

(Both of them were produced before each had announced their respective presidential campaigns, and there are update "codas" featured in each.)

"Biography: John McCain" (A&E Home Video, $12.99) examines the life and career of McCain, the son of a veteran U.S. Navy officer and high-ranking U.S. government official.

Among other things, it looks at the younger McCain's physically and emotional grueling experiences as a prisoner of war, having been held in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" for more than five years during the Vietnam War.

And as you'd expect, there are discussions of the sometimes fiery Republican's political career in Arizona and Washington.

"Biography: Barack Obama" (A&E Home Video, $12.99) focuses on the charismatic Illinois Democrat, the son of a Kenyan scholar and a white American woman.

The film attempts to show how growing up in a racially mixed home (and briefly in Indonesia) influenced his later life — as did his strained relationship with his estranged father.

Portions of the biography also look at his time spent as a community activist in Illinois and his subsequent political career.

These biographies are solid but unspectacular. Neither is what you'd describe as particularly hard-hitting or probing. The McCain documentary at least addresses the subject of the Keating 5 scandal and alleged womanizing, though.

And the Obama documentary mentions some of his early political blunders and drug use in his youth.

Also, the McCain piece may be rated G, but it does discuss adult themes and features some war imagery. The Obama documentary (rated PG) has a few drug references and racial slurs.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com