Sunday, June 08, 2008

June 2008 Book Club Selection: The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama

Better know a would-be president vol 2: Barack Obama

Due to the concession of Hillary Clinton, the three-part "better know a would-be president" series will have to be amended into two parts.

Now that the Democratic presidential nominee has been decided, many people will finally be taking their first long, hard look at Barack Obama wondering what kind of President he would be.

Bringing equal parts optimism and idealism to the table, as well as a remarkable historical precedent, Obama is a candidate who will only continue to turn heads as he proceeds to campaign against John McCain.

The Audacity of Hope is Obama's second foray into the published word, following Dreams From My Father. It's equal parts personal memoir and political opus.

Obama tackles all the expected topics: his youth in Hawaii and Indonesia, race, and his encounters with the man he hopes to succeed as President of the United States -- who he alarmingly regards as rather likable, despite his unpopularity.

He offers harsh criticisms, not only to George W Bush and the Republicans, but also to his own party. The Republicans he denounces as divisive and alarmist (although he often uses similiarly macho language in terms of national security). He cautions the Democrats about their recent tendencies toward reactionary politics.

All throughout, Obama gives observers a unique window into his political mind. The deeply-rooted Monism of his political philosophy -- a trait he intriguingly shares with Canadian reformer Preston Manning -- gives one the impression of Obama as a president who would spend a great deal of time trying to turn the American people on to his agenda and his principles, and very little time seeking the kind of compromise that would allow him to actually impliment them.

Yet to describe Obama as rigid would be an obvious mistake. Such a trait is due less to stubbornness and more to his deeply-rooted sense of conviction -- the sense that the principles he holds are preeminent principles, and all that is necessary is for him to convince others of it.

The book also reveals a certain note of irony in Obama's nomination for President. His mastery of the Senate via mastery of its precedents would actually make him an ideal candidate for Vice President.

The Audacity of Hope presents an inspiring vision for the future of American politics. However, considerable doubt remains that Obama himself is actually the man to bring that vision to life.

Only time, November's election, and (potentially) the years to follow will tell.

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