Barack Obama

Barack Obama has written the best presidential memoir since Ulysses S. Grant in 1885, and since Grant’s was mostly an account of his pre-presidential, Civil War generalship – written at speed, to stave off penury for his family, as he was dying of throat cancer – Obama’s lays some claim to being the greatest, at least so far. This first volume (of two) only reaches the third of his eight years in the White House.

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The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes & Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump by Dan Pfeiffer

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January-February 2019, no. 408

Gareth Evans diagnosed the affliction of leaving government as relevance deprivation syndrome. For those who worked in the Obama administration, leaving the White House must have presented deeper maladies: the bewildering success of a reviled political opponent and a profound sense of missed opportunities. Two recently released memoirs by former Obama staffers grapple with this reality in very different ways.

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Audacity by Jonathan Chait & We Are The Change We Seek edited by E.J. Dionne Jr and Joy-Ann Reid

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June-July 2017, no. 392

What is Barack Obama’s legacy? That deceptively simple question forms the subject of Jonathan Chait’s new book ...

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It is sometimes easy to forget that Barack Obama ascended from the Illinois state senate to the presidency of the United States in just over four years. It was a steep rise – exhilarating and unprecedented. Since assuming office in January 2009, the road has been rockier, and it is Obama’s seven years in office that form the subject of Chuck Todd’s The Stra ...

‘There’s a greater problem here. This is a president who won’t proudly proclaim American exceptionalism, maybe the first president ever who truly doesn’t believe in that … Look at his foreign policy. Doesn’t believe [in] America as a force for good, it doesn’t seem. Seems like instead, he believes in multilateralism as a goal, not a tactic. He allows f ...

November in America signals a time to gather in, take stock and breathe a little. The elections are done by the end of the first week. Thanksgiving beckons, the high holidays begin, media fever subsides – a little – and morphs into retrospective political analysis and projected anxiety about the future, especially, since 2008, the economic future.

It is ...

Tariq Ali, proclaims the Guardian, ‘has been a leading figure of the international left since the 60s’. If his latest book is the best the left can muster, I fear that its chances of influencing political debate are minimal – and, even worse, undesirable.

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Immediately after the mid-term elections in November, Barack Obama left for a long-planned G20 gathering in Seoul and for meetings with heads of government in the nation states of India, Indonesia, and Japan. Nothing remarkable, you think? Exactly what one expects a United States president to do? Not in America.

The right-wing blogosphere went berserk. Miche ...

When the book arrived for review, a paperback of 656 pages, my heart sank. Americans are the world’s greatest researchers. Reading it would be like drinking from a fire hose. But it began incisively, with a turning point in the 2008 presidential campaign that established Obama’s audacity as a ‘complex, cautious, intelligent, shrewd, young African-American man’ who would project his ambitions and hopes as the aspirations of the United States of America itself. Soon we were in Kenya, with Tom Mboya, Jomo Kenyatta, the Mau Mau uprising, and Barack Hussein Obama Sr, a promising young economist with a rich, musical voice and a confident manner on his way to the University of Hawaii. We also meet the most compelling character in the book, perhaps in Obama’s life: his mother, a seventeen-year-old from Kansas, intrepid and idealistic, who takes up with the dasher from Kenya, becomes pregnant and marries him.

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My son Daniel’s African wedding took place in Lancashire – where his new Zambian in-laws live – a few days after the US presidential election. Barack Obama was not on the guest list, but his presence loomed so large that he might have been an extra, virtual, best man.

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