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on 7 November 2010
In his short book covering Obama's political career before and after his elevation to the presidency (tellingly subtitled "Surrender at Home, War Abroad") Tariq Ali plainly regards the writing to have been on the wall for a progressive presidency since well before the election.

The case presented is persuasive: from his origins as a flunky for the Democratic party machine in Illinois and Chicago (the home of the Daley dynasty with it's stranglehold on the state Democratic party) to his time as a member of the U.S. senate it has been clear that the main evidence for his progressive politics was in the rhetoric of his speeches and writing rather than his actual political record.

For Ali his record as president is lamentable. Health Care reform was retarded by the vested interests of the private insurance sector; the program that was eventually enacted is skewed towards their financial interests rather than towards those who struggle to access health care. Experts predict that this will render the limited benefits gained grotesquely expensive before this decade is out. The policy of charter schools, a variant of which the Conservative party and their Liberal lackeys are touting under the name of "Free Schools", is likewise manna from heaven for the private education sector. On the economy, Obama has preferred to re-engage those who were up to their necks in the formation of the problem in the first place such as Lawrence Summers in preference to even considering those such as Joseph Stiglitz (Freefall) who have a record of being prescient on the failings of the last decades, and have constructive ideas with regard to getting the economy moving again, for the majority and not the few.

Abroad it is business as usual, nothing has changed. Iraq runs on as before, and as the war in Afghanistan extends into its tenth year (and into Pakistan) there is little sign of an improving situation, indeed the opposite as it becomes increasingly bloody for all those involved. The fact that the Israel Lobby demonises Obama tells us more about what they have been used to with the Bush II and Clinton administration, it is not an indication of a new even handed approach.

With the recent mid-term elections it must now be clear even to the most delusional of Obama supporters that the window of opportunity for progressive reform is firmly shut. The Republican Party, mouthing its usual platitudes about "small government", augmented with a heavy smattering of the deranged, delusional and dangerous tea-partyists, has its hands on the purse strings. The United States is in for a rough ride, and the collateral damage will likely extend well beyond its borders.

Stylistically "The Obama Syndrome", with the exception of the opening chapter on the Black experience of U.S. politics, is not up with Ali's best though this is to measure it against a very high standard. There are odd occasions when the prose stutters in a very un-Ali way, and the size of the subject, namely the current state of politics in the U.S., demands a far greater and more in-depth book. One suspects that it was slated to be published in time for the mid-term elections for maximum relevance, and the effort to meet this deadline explains the books shortcomings, though it should be said that Ali can still be brilliantly and brutally funny. As a bonus the appendices include an article by an American doctor on working in a County level Emergency Department which will horrify the British reader, and an article of Ali's on Yemen (originally published in The London Review of Books) that was written in response to talk within the Obama administration and the media about escalating the American intervention there. This is an interesting rather than an exceptional book that is still more than worth a look.
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on 24 October 2014
A fiery but intelligent and extremely insightful polemic which takes up vast swathes of evidence challenging the conservative fear that Obama is an out of control leftist and the liberal view of the President as the new bastion of progressive ideals. Ali's thesis hold that the President is in essence another representative of the Reaganite agenda at home and the Neoconservative agenda of Bush abroad.
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on 26 February 2013
Extremely informative! A real eye opener! Things common folks dont even have an idea about whats going on around and how their lives are affected.
This is Tariq Ali's first book I have read and I'll read more of his books. He has deep knowledge of what he is talking about and its evidence based, not shooting in the air!
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on 15 September 2013
Great book in highlighting the nightmare and failed hopes of Obama whether that be drones, cosy relationships with the bankers who created the crisis, arresting whistle blowers and so on! Interestingly Ali also focuses on how Obama is more dangerous in that liberals view him as the good guy. This means that he is doing things at present that would not have been accepted were they done by bush. We need working class movements in every country.
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