Like "Dreams of my Father" Barack Obama's first book, "Audacity of Hope" is very well written. However, since it was written while then Senator Obama was running for president, I was afraid it would simply be a long campaign speach. While it no doubt is that, it is also a refreshing look at our entire political landscape and is a book every american should read, reguardless of whether you agree with President Obama's policies and decisions.
The first chapter is titled "Republicans and Democrats". His basic premise is that he is not really all that dedicated to the left, and is basically just trying to solve the big issues that our nation faces, especially health care and our educational system. In order to show that he is above politics he lays the blame of our current hyper polarized political situation at the door step of both parties. Both sides, he argues have created a conspiracy theory against the other.
His two political role models appear to be Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton. After offering several Regan put downs to ballance his favorable opinion of Regan, he admits that he understands the appeal of Ronald Regan. He like most americans admires Regans philosophy of having a country characterized by order, the ability to control our destiny and make things happen with traditional values like hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism and faith.
What he liked about Bill Clinton was his ability to govern from the middle. If the people on the right who worry about Obama being an ultra liberal who will take us down a road to socialism would read this book, they might find a reason for hope here. His only real beef with Clinton was his inability to pass universal health care and strengthen education. But he admires his ability to steal conservative causes and make political hay with them.
Ultimately his claim in the first chapter is that he is against exagerating, demonizing, oversimplifying or overstating. You get the impression that he is the one who wants to lead us out of political grid lock and hyper political venomous campaings. In fact after he said toward the end of the chapter, " we are locked into "either or thinking: the notion that we can have only big government, or no government, I began to shake my head in agreement.
"Yes," I thought to my self. " He is a democrat and thus believes that government has a bigger role to play than republicans. But he's not going to overstate his case against the republicans. He knows that they feel that government should have a smaller role, but won't exagerate his case against them." That is refreshing I thought. But alas. He dashed my hopes to the ground. In the very next paragraph he contradicts everything he claimed to be against.
"It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that have turned Americans off to politics. He says. "This is not a problem for the right; a polorized electorate... works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government."
Oh well. It sounded good on paper.