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Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail Hardcover – January 17, 2017
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“Chait’s brilliant new book, Audacity, upends the conventional wisdom of the Washington commentariat -- and a surprising number of liberals -- that Barack Obama’s presidency was little more than eight years of disappointment…setting out a compelling case that he was one of the most successful presidents of modern times.” (The Guardian)
“A timely, trenchant and relentlessly argued book presenting the 44th president in terms that he himself would approve. Not only did Obama change America for the better, Chait writes, he also cemented a new policy infrastructure that will resist Trump’s efforts to tear it down.” (New York Times Sunday Book Review)
“Audacity, by Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, one of today’s must-read political journalists…documents the scale of Obama’s domestic policy, on health care, taxes, finance, climate, civil rights and education. Chait also explains why [Obama’s successes] won’t simply disappear… The book is a brave one.” (David Leonhardt, New York Times Op-Ed columnist)
“Chait offers a well-organized, clearly written case that will be valuable to future historians in their assessments.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[Chait] lacerates wimpish liberals and the duplicitous cynics on the right. He points out, over and over again, that, ideologically speaking, Obama’s policies were largely derived from a liberal Republican tradition.” (Brooklyn Rail)
“Chait’s command of policy and politics, and his clarity of thought, guarantee that Audacity will remain an essential starting point for those assessing the Obama presidency.” (Washington Monthly)
“[Chait is] one of the most influential political journalists of our time…the verve with which he pursues his quarries has made him one of our great polemicists.” (New Republic)
“Audacity is a sturdy defense of the past eight years and an attack on left-wing Americans who moan about Obama’s timidity. And in this endeavor it is a rip-roaring success. Chait tells the Obama story with enormous sympathy, but with enough detachment to make it credible.” (The Times (UK))
From the Back Cover
Over the course of eight years, Barack Obama amassed an array of historic achievements. His administration saved the American economy from collapse, expanded health insurance to tens of millions who previously could not afford it, negotiated an unprecedented nuclear deal with Iran, helped craft a groundbreaking international climate accord, reined in Wall Street, launched a fundamental overhaul of our education system, and formulated a new vision of racial progress. He has done all of this despite a left that frequently disdained him as a sellout, and a hysterical right that did everything possible to destroy his agenda, even in instances when they actually agreed with what he was doing before Obama was the one doing it.
Now, as the page turns to possibly the most dangerous commander in chief in our history, Jonathan Chait, one of America’s most incisive and meticulous political commentators, digs deep into Obama’s record on major policy fronts—the economy, the environment, domestic reform, health care, race, and foreign policy—to demonstrate why history will judge our forty-fourth president as among our greatest. Chait explains why so many observers, from cynical journalists to disheartened Democrats, missed the enormous evidence of progress amidst the smoke screen of extremist propaganda and the confinement of short-term perspective. He also reveals why Obama’s accomplishments will last despite the reactionary effort by Donald Trump and the Republicans to extinguish them. And in its resounding defense of Obama’s tenure, Audacity both makes clear his victories, and what we need to fight for next.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author looks at a number of aspects of the Obama presidency, but starts with race relations and how that affected both of his elections and how it created tension with certain groups as soon as he was elected. It is sad, but racism is still very much alive in today's society. From then on he looks at the legislative agenda and just exactly what Obama got accomplished in his 2 terms. Just a short sample reads like this:
Stabilizing and repairing the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Passing a huge stimulus program that produced jobs and improved infrastructure
Brought the auto industry back from the brink of collapse along with the other companies that supply them
Reformed the healthcare system
Wall St reforms that protect consumers
Drastically cut the unemployment rate
Expanded the use of alternative energy forms
And this is only a partial list of Obama's accomplishments.
The book is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to anyone…particularly those who don't believe Obama accomplished much. It will open your eyes to just how busy he was. One reason I think people are unaware of his accomplishments is because he didn't go about bragging about them (unlike today, where the President has to prove he can sign his name every time he signs something). An excellent read and a great early book on President Obama's legacy.
Jonathan Chait is definitely an Obama fan, but his book is nevertheless far from an uncritical eulogy. He explores Obama’s legacy by focusing on a few big policy areas: saving the economy with a huge stimulus after the 2008 financial crisis when GWB had already committed to bailing out Wall Street; saving the US auto industry from destruction; the ACA which has finally moved America towards First World country status by making healthcare affordable to >20 million Americans previously denied cover; taking a global leadership role in combating climate change, and his successes - and failures - in foreign policy.
Above all, Chait’s eloquence and ability to explain the complexities of macro-economics and healthcare reforms amid competing interests/industry lobbying is what makes this book so valuable; for example his succinct 5-page summary of the broken US healthcare system which had been worsening for decades with spiraling costs and poor outcomes per $ spent is a masterpiece of brevity, literacy and impartial thoroughness. The ACA was passed in the teeth of opposition from both left and right, but has proved to be popular with millions of ‘red state’ voters who have come to rely on it even as they vote for senators and congressional representatives dedicated to dismantling it!
Chait demonstrates how Obama succeeded with his economically progressive agenda in the teeth of six years of obfuscation by a Republican-dominated congress and the grass-roots militancy of the tea partyers by highly skilled political management in DC combined with an implacable determination to bring long-term change, even if in some cases it turned out to be incomplete or incremental change. In areas of foreign policy however, Chait sees the Obama years as only partially successful: by choosing to keep America out of the Syrian civil war it’s almost certain the conflict was prolonged, the toll of death and destruction escalated and the refugee crisis exacerbated. By withdrawing US troops from Iraq (a 2008 election pledge) a vacuum was left which allowed IS to form up, take control of the north of the country and exploit the instability of the Syrian Civil War. Chait however gives Obama full credit for thawing US relations with Cuba, negotiating the Iran nuclear deal and covertly supporting democratic movements during the Arab Spring (NB Libya fell apart following Gaddafi’s overthrow not because of too much US commitment, but because of not enough). Obama’s committed global leadership on the climate change issue is a particularly impressive achievement, now unfortunately under threat from the new 2017 administration.
Overall, a fine and balanced book from Jonathan Chait on what history may judge to be one of America’s greatest presidents: the eloquent, highly intelligent, cautious, good-humored, principled and completely scandal-free Barack Obama, who left office with an unprecedented >60% approval rating. How could a black president be all these things? The audacity of it!