Book review - Audacity

Friday, September 22, 2017

How Barack Obama defied his critics and created a legacy that will prevail, Jonathan Chait, Customs House, 2017.

This book by Jonathan Chait, a political commentator at the respected New Yorker Magazine, is one of the very early attempts to chart the course that former US President Obama has taken in his eight years at the White House. As the title suggests, the author is very sympathetic towards Obama and in fact the book tries to bring out the success stories in his tenure.

The author believes that Obama has ‘amassed an array of historic achievements’ in his eight years in power 2008-2017,’ and therefore, the books ‘makes the case that Obama succeeded’ (page XII). The author begins by stating boldly that Obama ‘accomplished nearly everything he set out to do’.

In chapter one, the author states that Obama succeeded to make White America  respect Black America more. ‘Rather than the familiar images of blacks as athletes, or entertainers, or associating them with crime and poverty, Obama provided an association of a leader(p.30). Here the author explains that Obama’s tenure was a rare instance in which whites were massively exposed to a clear positive shift in the balance of black exemplars in mass media. This is indeed a rather controversial point: many experts and pundits have in fact alleged that under Obama  race relations in US became more hostile as seen in the spate of Police killings of blacks in 2014-2015. Yet, the author maintains through out this chapter that Obama helped to transform many whites into more tolerant citizens.

In the second chapter, Chait says that the second Obama success story was how he rewind and repositioned the US economy and therefore prevented the Second Great Depression. Obama signed a recovery act in 2009 to help the ailing auto industry which is a major employer in America, and in few years the industry had become profitable again. The act also reinvigorated the banking sector and further boosted the US Economy (p.53).

The Obama Care health programme launched in 2010 to afford health policy to the poor is seen as another achievement of the Obama administration (p.76). Chait here states boldly again that prior to Obama care, a ‘health care crises’ existed in the USA and it was so serious that it had ‘humanitarian’ angle to it. Chait agrees that it was a tough battle for Obama care to pass through congress as many lawmakers saw it as a sign of big government! Now that Trump has vowed to end Obama care, it remains to be seen if this ‘positive’ legacy of Obama will endure or will be consigned to a footnote.

Chait also sees Obama’s support for climate change accord in Paris in 2015 as a major achievement, (p.177) although like Obama care, President Trump has also decided to remove this and now the US wants to pull out of the Paris accord.

Chait concludes that ‘Obama has vindicated’ those who voted for him, and that his legacy is a good one.

This book is highly recommended.

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Source: Picture: A view on Obama’s White House tenuxre