I read a ton–about 100 books both modern and classic at a MINIMUM per year–and I have to say this is among the best of the bunch that I read last year. I will admit up-front that my judgment is colored by what I perceive as idol-worship of Obama, which is prevalent in Los Angeles, and that I am open to almost any critique of his leadership. But I will also be very clear that I demand facts before I accept critiques. I am not affiliated with any party and do not care to be: American politics is at this point a caricature, and I’m unhappy with both groups.
What Woodward does an amazing job of presenting is Obama’s lack of substance, especially when compared with his predecessors as President. Woodward is neither liberal nor conservative so far as I can tell, though I think he inclines towards liberalism rather than conservatism. Obama has no liaisons on Capitol Hill and it appears that he does not care to connect with those who represent the opposite party. Some leading Republicans question whether Obama even knows who they are. But Obama’s communication issues are much more serious than that: he undercuts Congressional leaders from his own party as they attempt to negotiate a debt limit increase on his own behalf, and he seriously alienates them by ruining much of the work they do.
What becomes clear through the course of this book is that Obama hasn’t really done much, other than the Health Care law, but he’s asking for a debt limit increase to continue to fund things he is not doing or not improving. And he is completely unprepared for the role he ran for and assumed. Perhaps my favorite scene epitomizing this is Woodward’s account of a meeting between Boehner and Obama at the White House. Boehner comments to Woodward that it crystallized the differences between the two for him, and that while he was smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of wine Obama was chewing Nicorette (spelling?) and sipping on iced tea. I understand that the man is taking care of his health and appreciate it. But what Boehner is in essence saying is that Obama acts like a little girl–he presents an effeminate picture–and this is in keeping with the characterization of his leadership by just about every other event reported in this book.