Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Audacity of Barack Obama

Though Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” was published only three years ago, it gives no hint of the Illinois senator’s aspirations to be president of the United States.

At our book club last week we asked ourselves what happened between the date of publication and his declaring his candidacy.

In the book, author Obama worries at length about spending time away from his family. Life in the Senate, while challenging and productive, is insane. Flying back and forth between legislative business in Washington (to say nothing of trips abroad and to fundraisers) and “home” in Chicago is wearing. He openly misses his young daughters who know how to push his paternal buttons. Moments of privacy dwindle.

And this is the man who chooses to seek the presidency?

A future book will no doubt tell us why and what happened to his familial yearnings.

Obama is a compelling writer who is at his best recounting stories: A trip to Iraq, recollections of his Indonesian childhood, exchanges with constituents, his courtship of Michelle.

His analysis of issues is clear, thorough but always carefully nuanced. In his lawyerly way, he presents his opponents’ side persuasively and then neatly and surgically dissects their arguments. His positions seem crafted for the next campaign, as if he is wondering whether he can live with these indelible words.

I’m voting for Obama but I’m already prepared to be disappointed by an Obama administration. The reasons are all too transparent in this book. His analysis of how the Bush Administration chose to invade Iraq never mentions oil and the Bush/Cheney bond to the Saudi Royal family and to the oil industry. Instead Obama seems to buy into the notion that faulty intelligence was to blame for the invasion.

Such thinking is itself faulty intelligence, which is surprising from one so intelligent.

There were, as Obama points out, plenty of other threatening dictatorial regimes Bush could have overthrown. North Korea and Burma come to mind. But, strangely, none of those dictatorships float on a sea of black gold. The fact escapes the senator.

Then there’s the little matter of Afghanistan, the chest-pounder of Obama's presidential campaign and his rationale for increasing military spending. The main problem with Iraq, he laments, is that the insurgency/occupation has pinned down troops that are desperately needed in Afghanistan.

Before Obama is elected and starts moving the armed pawns and knights to the east, I’d like him to meet a few hundred thousand Russian veterans for a chat about Afghanistan, a quagmire that makes Iraq look like a sits bath.

The book also seems to be storing political chits for future use. Then again, perhaps Obama is simply being gracious. In any case, he lavishes praise on the lions of the Senate. Robert Bird, Richard Lugar and Ted Kennedy. Bill Clinton wins more than his share of kudos. There’s even a tip of the hat to one John McCain.

In retrospect, this is a campaign book without ever admitting it. In politics, timing is everything. Perhaps an admission that the White House was in Obama's plans for 2008 would have been premature.

As good as the book is, it is a better, more intriguing one because of when it was written and all that has happened since.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home