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Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama Hardcover – 27 Aug 2009
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A superb achievement. With an almost painterly eye, compelling insights and extraordinary access to Barack Obama and his inner circle, Richard Wolffe's Renegade tells the hidden, dramatic story of the 2008 campaign and also reveals much we did not know about the 44th President's life before politics. -- Michael Beschloss, political historian
Renegade offers a deft mix of biography, personal reflection, British wit and old-style journalism. Destined to be a classic in its genre -- Douglas Brinkley, historian and contributing editor, Vanity Fair
Richard Wolffe takes the reader deep inside the campaign, revealing--often for the first time--how the candidate and his closest confidants dealt with the biggest crises in the election. He earned their trust and it paid off handsomely in that he reveals new details and new aspects of the candidate's character that have remained sequestered from view...until now.
-- Michele Norris, US journalist
The first of the President Obama books--and a good one--insightful, thorough and straight. -- Ben Bradlee, vice president at large of The Washington Post
Renegade offers a deft mix of biography, personal reflection, British wit and old-style journalism. Destined to be a classic in its genreSee all Product description
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I have never read a book about a politician before but I am finding this a very interesting read. It is informing me about the process of presidential elections as well as the thoughts and actions of Barack Obama.
I cannot read from cover to cover in one go like I would normally do for a fiction book. It is intense but thoroughly enjoyable
Wolffe was given amazing access to Obama and his story reflects the insider access he was given. I cannot recommend any political junkie leaving Wolffe's book off their "need to read" list.
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What makes his account unique are the numerous personal asides, comments and insights given by Obama to the author as they trek together through the arduous months of the campaign trail. Of course we all know the eventual outcome of one of the most iconoclastic and improbable campaigns of modern times but Wolffe's major success is in bringing alive the key moments of the campaign such as the setbacks like losing the New Hampshire primary, the intimate details of the campaign, Biden pounding on McCain's door in anger because McCain had refused to take a phone call, being one of my favorites, the moments of genuine doubt and of course the eventual triumph.
An interesting recurrent theme in the book is Obama's love of and dedication to basketball. He had played good high school level ball and had even dreamed of trying to make the professional grade. Although he ultimately found an outlet for his energies and skills elsewhere he never lost his passion for the game. His love of basketball was something he shared with Wolffe who had also played at high school and college. There a numerous instances in the book of Obama grabbing a few free moments to play some pick-up ball with his team to get away from the intense pressure of events, to mentally recharge and to reconnect himself with the tangible ideas of teamwork, dedication, skill and common effort towards victory that are so familiar to anyone who has ever played a team sport.
The victory was in large part due to Obama's personality: his directed intelligence, his calmness in a crisis, his ability to sum up difficult situations and take decisive action to effective address the problem, his discipline and hard work, and above all his ability to motivate and lead a team towards achieving a difficult objective. Wolffe also reflects that one of the purposes of the long election process in the US is to stress-test the candidate for their ability to cope under pressure. It may be an imperfect process but it certainly has merit in testing the metal of a candidate over a prolonged period for their fitness to hold the highest office in the land and the most powerful elected position in the world. It is very instructive in following the 2016 presidential campaign to consider which of the two presidential candidates displays similar traits.
As we discover right at the end of the book the original idea was to provide an answer to the question with which Wolffe challenged Obama as the campaign drew to a close, "just who is Barack Obama?" Wolffe succeeds admirably in answering that question in depth and in detail.
Two days after this address, he approached award-winning journalist Richard Wolffe, who had been covering the Obama campaign for Newsweek Magazine ever since the candidate announced his run for the presidency on January 16, 2007. Wolffe, while interviewing Obama, told him that his story was largely unknown, even though he had written a bestselling memoir, "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance." Wolffe said, “People want to know who you are. Who are you? That’s the question people are going to ask six months from now, and six years from now.” The candidate agreed with Wolffe’s assessment, and asked the journalist to write a “Theodore White kind of book” about the campaign. Mr. White won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1962 for his book, The Making of the President, 1960, about the campaign between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. He then went on to write outstanding books about the 1964,1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns.
Wolffe dismissed the notion of authoring a “Making of a Present-type” book. He said there was already too much press coverage. He told the future president, to my great dismay, that “publishers want partisan screeds nowadays. They don’t want reporting.” Wolffe then went on to say or think, “Teddy White. How archaic. The poor man, (Obama), doesn’t understand the media.” The condescension of the author is outrageous, as he terms obsolete the ever relevant Mr. White, and the “what sells in print naivetee” of Obama. That was a real turn-off for me.
Given the very nature of candidate Barak Obama, his lovely family, the historical significance of an African-American man entering the presidential campaign, with a woman, Hillary Clinton, as his leading contender, his eventual opponent, John McCain, with his own historic and dramatic story, and the unlikely choice of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential candidate – a journalist would have to be a total flop to write a bad book about such events. And Richard Wolffe is certainly no slouch.
Drawing on some twenty-four months of coverage and countless interviews with Barak Obama, Wolffe has attempted to answer the “Who is he?” question.
Because of all the media coverage of all the candidates and campaigns, there is little that surprised me in “Renegade,” which, by the way, was the Secret Service’s name for Obama during his candidacy. There are a few new tidbits, especially about events surrounding Hillary Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State. I did find myself wishing for a Theodore White kind of book, however, with more objective coverage about both Democrat and Republican campaigns, their conventions and platforms, and more gossipy details of infighting, etc., from behind the scenes.
“Renegade gives us a more biased look at the amazing story of Obama’s presidential run and his big win in November 2008. The reader is given a ring-side seat to the candidates long journey – from freshman senator, (99th out of 100 senators in seniority), who had trouble gaining admission to the Democratic convention in 2000 – to President of the United States. What a ride! Yet, there is something lacking here – perhaps the tension and excitement which would have come from a more bipartisan coverage.
I enjoyed the read, but I was a Hillary supporter long before I fell in line and campaigned for Obama. I would have liked to read, at the very least, an Obama & staff summary of why she lost the nomination. What were her biggest mistakes? The biggest mistakes her staff made? I’d like to know why in the world John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate.
There are portions of the book, however, which are quite moving. I learned that the future President Obama is, in fact, a man of moral character, a family man and a brilliant man, with a natural ability to lead and the strength to tackle difficult issues with tremendous energy, and an openness and realistic optimism that inspires.
There are passages like: “His memoir revolved around something and someone not present in his childhood: his African father and his African American identity. Even that was a partial view, obscuring the role of his mother and grandparents: the white family that raised him. He was obviously black, yet he grew up with a white perspective. He was American, yet he grew up with an international perspective. He was a Democrat who sought to understand the Republican perspective. He was a moderate who spoke the language of radical change, and a progressive who spoke in moderate tones.” Now that is wonderful descriptive writing and right on target!
Unfortunately, Mr. Wolffe’s prose does not flow. He is all over the place with his timelines. In one paragraph he writes about an incident which takes place during the campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination, and two paragraphs later he has the now president-elect making cabinet decisions. A few pages along, the reader gets excerpts of Obama debating McCain, and then we are back at the Iowa, and Nevada caucuses. There are few segues which allow the reader to smoothly make the transitions in time and place. I really expected more from this journalist, whom I respect and admire. And I would like to know who edited the book!
So, if you are an Obama fan, as I am, wait for this book to come out in a paperback, or buy it used, or borrow it. Save yourself the money of the hardback copy, because even though the book is interesting, it is not a “Must Read!” I give it 3.5 Stars for the writing and 4 Stars for the content.