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Renegade: The Making of a President Hardcover – June 2, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“The first of the President Obama books–and a good one–insightful, thorough, and straight.”
—Ben Bradlee, Washington Post

“If you really want to know what happened inside the Obama campaign, this is the one book that will take you there. My jaw dropped time and time again reading details that, despite the coverage, were never revealed in the long campaign. A clear-eyed, up-close look at the campaign, Renegade is the one Obama book that should not be missed.”
—Michele Norris, All Things Considered

“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. Wolffe’s brisk, well-written narrative is fully in the tradition of Theodore White and Richard Ben Cramer, capturing a pivotal presidential contest dominated by one of the most luminous figures in modern American history.”
—Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage

“Many journalists covered the 2008 presidential campaign for newsrooms and blogvilles. Not the intrepid Richard Wolffe. With gumshoe persistence he tracked Barack Obama’s historic march to victory with grace and cunning. 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, professor of history, Rice University

“Politics is a lot like basketball–complete with drives up the middle, clutch rebounding, and smart head fakes. In Renegade, Richard Wolffe takes us inside the game through unparalleled access to candidate-turned-president Obama and through his own canny eye and wit. I learned something new on practically every page.”
—Gwen Ifill, Washington Week in Review and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

“This is an insightful, unusually moving, fully observed portrait of the improbable candidate and complicated man who would be president, a riveting backstage drama set just at the moment America’s third act prepared to debut. If Jefferson started the exalted but flawed exercise and Lincoln enlarged it, then with Richard Wolffe’s wonderful book–graced as it is with a journalist’s eye and a historian’s breadth and command–we are granted the gift of access to the second skinny lawyer from Illinois who would save our country. Marvelous.”
—Ken Burns, award-winning filmmaker

About the Author

RICHARD WOLFFE is an award-winning journalist and political analyst for MSNBC television, appearing frequently on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and Hardball. He covered the entire length of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign for Newsweek magazine. Before Newsweek, Wolffe was a senior journalist at the Financial Times, serving as its deputy bureau chief and U.S. diplomatic correspondent. He lives with his wife and their three children in Washington, D.C.

See all Editorial Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307463125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307463128
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Richard Wolffe is an award-winning journalist and political analyst for MSNBC television. He covered the entire length of Barack Obama's presidential campaign for Newsweek magazine, traveling with the candidate and his inner circle from his announcement through election day, 21 months later.

His book about the Obama campaign, Renegade: The Making of a President, was published by Crown in June 2009 in the United States, and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It was published by Virgin Books in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa; Carrera in the Netherlands; and Law Press in China.

His new book is Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House, to be published by Crown in November 2010.

Wolffe appears frequently on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Hardball with Chris Matthews. On NBC, he has featured as a political commentator on Meet The Press and TODAY.

Prior to his exclusive contract with NBC, he previously appeared on CNN and Fox News, as well as international media including British, Canadian and Australian television.

He is featured prominently in the HBO documentary on the Obama campaign, By the People, and played a leading role in the HBO documentary of the 2000 Bush campaign, Journeys with George.

Wolffe began writing about American politics as a senior journalist at the Financial Times, serving as its deputy bureau chief and U.S. diplomatic correspondent in Washington D.C. In that capacity, he managed coverage of business and political affairs in the nation's capital, and reported on U.S. foreign policy at the State Department and National Security Council.

He first started reporting on George W. Bush and his Texas team in 1999, at the start of the presidential campaign. He travelled with then-Governor Bush for more than a year, through the extraordinary election of 2000.

He joined Newsweek magazine in November 2002 as diplomatic correspondent, covering foreign policy and international affairs. In the 2004 presidential election, he covered the chaotic Howard Dean campaign before switching to John Kerry's campaign.

As Newsweek's senior White House correspondent, his cover stories included What He Believes (on Obama's faith), Black & White (about Obama and racial politics), Bush In The Bubble (about the president after Hurricane Katrina), and Weight of the World (the behind-the-scenes story of how Bush handled the Lebanon war).

Wolffe is the co-author of The Victim's Fortune (HarperCollins, 2002), which reveals the behind-the-scenes deals that led to billions of dollars in compensation to the Nazis' victims in the late 1990s. His reporting for the book covered major European companies such as Deutsche Bank, Daimler and Société Générale. It also encompassed government officials across Europe and the United States, and several high-profile class action lawyers.

His next book was in an entirely different field: he is the co-author of a Spanish cookbook, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, published in 2005 by Clarkson Potter in the United States and Planeta in Spain. He co-wrote a follow-up book Made in Spain, published by Clarkson Potter in 2008, and wrote a 26-part TV show of the same name for PBS television. He has also written for food magazines such as Food Arts and Food and Wine.

Born in Birmingham, England, Wolffe graduated from Oxford University with first-class honors in English and French. He lives with his wife and their three children in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Dan Hamilton on June 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wolffe wrote this book at the suggestion of then candidate Obama (a story he outlines in the appendix) and was given some pretty good access to the main players during the campaign. Despite his access, it is still a (well written) outsider's view of the Obama 2008 campaign - you are not going to find Obama or his staff overtly trashing people - they knew when they were talking to Wolffe he might eventually write a book about it. (my favorite little nugget from the book - that Obama loved <a href="[...]">this picture</a>)

If you followed the Obama campaign with any depth, many of the "insider tales" discussed were either covered in the press or blogosphere, but for the casual person, Wolffe's description of the Obama campaign will be a revealing account of some of the behind the scenes motivations and decisions the Obama campaign made.

However, the book is BADLY EDITED. It starts on election night, then jumps back and forth through time. Many of the chapters are way way too long and could have easily been broken into several chapters. Moreover, Wolffe over-relies on passages from Obama's books to fill in Obama's personal history rather than telling Obama's story in a new way.

The biggest problem I had with the book is that the chronology of the Democratic Primary is very loose - one minute Wolffe is discussing the Nevada Caucus and the next he's talking about Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania with nary a mention that Obama ran off a consecutive win streak of 11 primaries and caucuses after Super Tuesday. What gets lost in the telling is the fact that Clinton had mathematically lost the nomination, arguably after Obama's win streak and definitely after Texas, and there is little discussion of David Plouffe's delegate strategy.
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Format: Hardcover
Written with a reporter's keen eye for observation, a commentator's penchant for analysis, and the affinity and fondness for humor of an anchorman of late night shows, "Renegade: The Making of a President", a biographical book on President Obama, is a joy to read. Even though this book is based mostly on information gathered by the author during Mr. Obama's campaign for President, it reads like a biography of President Obama because the author has chosen to include a lot of biographical information also.

Interspersed with humor and witty comments throughout the book, the book is a joy to read. For example, when Obama decides to offer the job of Secretary of State to Mrs. Clinton, one of Obama's senior aids says: "There was a lot of encouragement from inside the Senate to get her into this job. They wanted her out of there."

Unlike several of his former colleagues in the senate, Obama holds no grudges and he tends to forgive people: "His staff opposed the idea for the most part, arguing that Clinton would never be truly loyal. But Obama was willing to leave the primaries behind, including his own strong feelings at the time. "I don't hold grudges," he told his aides. "I don't worry about the past. I'm concerned about what happens now. If she can help me and Bill Clinton isn't too much of a liability, we should seriously look at this."

The word "Renegade" refers to the code word the Secret service used for candidate Obama. I have no doubt that the code has now been changed. Those who have read President Obama's two autobiographical books, "Dreams from my Father" and "The audacity of Hope" will get a deeper insight into the President's life, beliefs, philosophy and character. How his work as a community organizer has influenced his thoughts, ideals and beliefs is explained here very lucidly.

"Renegade: The Making of a President" is a complex, marvelously written, deep, humorous and thought-provoking book.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful By K. Wray on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Normally, I wouldn't confess my political leanings in a review but it seems fair in this context. I was/am an unlikely Obama supporter -- one of those independents/left wing Republicans described in this book. After intensively studying the issues for a couple of hours I decided to vote for Obama early on because I looked around and noted that What We Were Doing Wasn't Working -- a phrase that I found effectively ended most political arguments.

The good news is that my parents are still speaking to me, although they are careful not to let it get out to their friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the end when I felt it got, for want of a better term, "mushy". Obama was portrayed exactly as I perceived him -- decisive, ethical, brilliant and most of all steady. In the final chapters, all of the sudden it felt like the author decided to give the President wiggle room on his positions under the heading of "pragmatism." I have had numerous discussions over the last year with relatives -- mostly older-- who characterize the President as a Marxist or a socialist, to which I have always replied "Oh, I hope you are wrong."

I had the same reaction at the end of this book -- I so hope Mr. Wolffe's characterization of President Obama as a slightly different man than the candidate is just wrong. Too many of us have invested too much hope in the President's commitment to change the tone of politics -- dashing those hopes would arguably be as destructive to this country as the absurdity of Iraq.

Overall, a well written book that deserves to be read very carefully.
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