My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A rather dull recitation of President Obama’s accomplishments. I had hoped to find an honest, searching, complex portrait of a person and president I admire very much. What I got instead was straightforward reporting of Obama’s handling of the recession; health care; energy policy; environmental policy; wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; education; finance reform; same-sex marriage and race. Reads like 265 pages of newsprint. Illuminating if you have been a coma since 2008 and wanted to catch up on what you missed. The author offers a few insights into the complexity of Obama’s strategies and his ability to work many layers of complex, interrelated problems simultaneously.
The author is at his best when critiquing Obama’s shortcomings because he is able to do so with respect and admiration. Unfortunately, those sections come at the end and are far too spare. Not enough is made of the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes and civilian casualties. Massive violations of privacy and domestic surveillance are shrugged off in a few paragraphs.
The book reads as a first plea for history to regard the Obama years generously. I think history will be kind to Barack Obama but reading this in 2019 is dispiriting. Watching many of Obama’s accomplishments thoughtlessly attacked and dismantled by stupid, mean and venal people, I rather wish the author had found an adjective more descriptive than “consequential” to describe Obama’s contributions. It is probably too soon to know what the right word will be. The version of this book written after the end of 45’s term will be clearer. The 46th President will have a lot of repair to do but will find a template for success in the legacy of Barack Obama.