Sunday, May 16, 2010

From Times Online
May 15, 2010
Solving the mystery of Barack Obama
A new study shows how the ‘skinny kid with the funny name’ rose to the top and became President of the United States
Giles Whittell
When David Cameron visits Barack Obama this summer as Prime Minister, he may be surprised by how much he has in common with his host.
Both men had or have white mothers and grandparents. Both actively conformed to stereotypes to feel comfortable in their youth (one at the Bullingdon Club, the other as a basketball obsessive). And both actively distanced themselves from those stereotypes later on to make themselves electable. But whereas Cameron won power in a muddle, Obama won it in a moment of grand national revelation that was the culmination of a meteoric personal story and a long and painful one for his country — which is why David Remnick has taken the trouble to write this long, detailed, admiring and deeply serious book about him.

 The Bridge is being published at a not particularly special moment in the Obama presidency. The 2008 election is a memory. Healthcare reform came too recently to be included in the book, and the mid-term elections are in the future.
The question therefore arises, why now? And there are at least three answers.

One relates to the role of nonfiction as a public service. Seventeen months after the inauguration, America is so absorbed in climbing out of recession, and Obama is so consumed by the grind of government, that the country has largely forgotten that the fact of his presidency is the most extraordinary thing about it.
Remnick offers a thorough reminder. As you would expect from America’s most accomplished reporter, he plucks all the low-hanging fruit, the already familiar stories from the Obama canon, and finds ways to make them worth retelling.
He puts us, for example, in Logan Airport in Boston after the 2004 Democratic convention speech that made Obama a political star. That he was pulled aside for extra security screening and laughed it off to a shocked aide (“Dude, it’s happened to me all my life”) will ring a bell with many readers. That his mobile phone then rang with Mikhail Gorbachev on the other end is less well known. That an aide, Jim Cauley, then managed to wangle them both into the first-class lounge where they bumped into Senator Joe Biden is Remnick’s little scoop for page 402. “He’s a good man,” Obama’s future Vice-President said. “But tell him he needs to go slow when he gets to the Senate.”
Full piece at The Times.
And the Guardian review.
And in The Spectator.

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