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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and Insightful -, October 25, 2012
This review is from: The Obama Presidency, Explained (Kindle Edition)
Author Fallows sees two conflicting narratives of Obama's presidency. In the one, he's a skillful political player, and according to the other, he's politically clumsy and out of his depth. A seemingly huge number of people sense he has shrunk in office and achieved less than he should have. Obviously now is a good time to determine which is more likely the correct description.

Fallows sought to answer the question by interviewing various high-level people on both sides of the aisle. Fallows himself believes Obama was unready for the presidency and unable to attract the best people to him. On the other hand, he's been a fast learner and the demands of the office exceed the talents and skills that any real person has ever had. Serious criticisms can (and have been) leveled at every recent U.S. president. Fallows also tells us that the record of short-term political assessments is far from perfect.

Fallows makes no mention of the fact that China requires its political leaders to work their way up, complete detailed training, and pass demanding tests to even begin the climb. America has no such requirements, and Obama had the least leadership and high-level government experience by far of any president in the past century. It also helps that their top leadership ranks are dominated by individuals trained in engineering - data-driven rational thought. To be fair, however, Senator McCain's leadership experience had also be very limited.

Prior to becoming president, Obama was a first-term senator and had not had the opportunity to develop the network of advisers and thinkers that eg. Clinton had through nearly 12 years as a governor. One consequence was that Obama inherited many of Clinton's team members.

Obama uniquely faced major decisions right from the start - eg. How tough to be with Wall Street?; How hard to push for stimulus and how large should it be?; How to start the health-care bill drafting process and what should be in it? Fallows believes Obama should have been harder on Wall Street, less patient about drafting the health-care bill, and more suspicious of Republican efforts to block his moves.

Obama has a former senator and presidential contender in one Cabinet post and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist in another, and attracted a prospective Republican presidential candidate to the prestigious assignment of Ambassador to China - yet, when William Daley became White House Chief of Staff, he told Obama that the team he'd surrounded himself with was not good enough. Obama, however, refused to make any changes. My opinion is that Obama's picking Summers (Clinton leftover) and Geithner led directly to his coddling Wall Street and not dealing with Free Trade in general, China in particular.

Obama's accomplishments include avoiding an even worse economic catastrophe than what we incurred, improving America's image abroad, and passing the health-care bill. On the down-side, relations with Israel are near one of their periodic lows and many Israelis feel they can't trust Obama, relations with Pakistan are worse, Iran is still proceeding on-course to build a bomb, and Afghanistan is still a mess.

Obama has had limited success in handling the economy, beginning with his too-timid coddling of Wall Street that not only produced outrage in its own right but poisoned efforts for eg. homeowner stimulus. Similarly, the Obama administration was far too reserved in its efforts to deal with the Republicans after the 2010 election. (Truman's experience after the mid-term elections of 1946 should have provided a forewarning.)

Fallows also believes it is unrealistic to expect Obama to resolve the various crises in the Middle East and restore the economy to full health. He's heartened by Obama's having made some recess appointments and used executive orders to change government policy (immigration). My own opinion - our deeply divided political system that is steeped in ideology is simply unable to utilize resolve relatively straightforward problems such as taming our cancerous health care system by adopting ideas (eg. greater government regulation) from other nations that have done so. Similarly, excessive free-market ideology will continue to block any effort to significantly improve our economy in the foreseeable future.

Fallow's 'bottom-line' is that 'given a second term, (Obama) would have a better chance of becoming the figure so many people imagined.'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well analyzed, March 25, 2013
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This review is from: The Obama Presidency, Explained (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book, and I found that Fallows does an excellent job of being objective and informative concerning some heated subjects.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and thorough, September 26, 2012
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This review is from: The Obama Presidency, Explained (Kindle Edition)
As a subscriber of the Atlantic for many years, I've followed the work of both Mr. Gallows and Mr. Coates. This piece is thorough and we'll researched. I'd highly recommend it as a primer for election season.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Thought Out, September 17, 2012
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This review is from: The Obama Presidency, Explained (Kindle Edition)
Self aware and effective. The essay really illustrates the two possible outcomes for president Obama's legacy, and why they differ so greatly.
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