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Friday, July 17, 2009

Department of Book Reports: Renegade: The Making of a President

Renegade: The Making of a President, by Richard Wolffe (Random House $26.00) Early on in the 2008 primary season, Candidate Barack Obama urged Newsweek writer and MSNBC correspondent, Richard Wolfe, to write the story of the campaign in the tradition of the old Theodore White books, The Making of a President for whatever year there was an election, beginning in 1960. Wolffe, (who, incidentally, has authored as well two Spanish cookbooks, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America [Clarkson Potter in the US and Planeta in Spain, 2005] and Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen [Clarkson Potter, 2008]), was initially reluctant to do so, but finally decided to do so upon further urging and with the promise that Obama would give him exclusive interviews, with the caveat that Obama would not tell him certain things, like how he really felt about some of his opponents.

And Wolffe succeeds. The book gives a great feel about how the campaign ebbed and flowed. Beginning with the successfull organizing and winning of the Iowa caucuses, to the bruising primaries against Hilary Clinton, through the Reverend Wright controversy, and the writing of his great speeches on both race and his convention acceptance speech, and onto the fall campaign against John McCain, frequent contributor to the General's blog.

Wolffe acknowledges the contributions of a staff put together by Obama that included the David's Plouffe and Axelrod and his speechwriter, Jon Favreau. The organization was led firmly by Obama, who kept staff and volunteers focussed, and in style by being No Drama Obama. And while also acknowledging Obama's ambition, he notes the candidate's (and as President-Elect) willingness to have people around him that would challenge his own positions and mind-set.

Wolffe makes clear that Obama, even early on, has that mind-set of looking forward, and not looking back and, above all, wanting to be a transformative candidate and President. And therein may lay the problem many Progressive critics have with the President thus far. The looking forward seems to mean not looking seriously at the crimes of the previous President and his administration, which seems to skewer any notion of justice that we know. And for the transformative portion, we see too much of executive perogatives being defended, with too many compromises on the important issues. When will we see action on Dont Ask, Dont Tell, or the Defense of Marriage Act? What is Health Care reform without a public option? Why is Single-payer off the table? Of course it is still early and with the complete mess Bush left the country in, there is much to be done and not all can be done immediately. I get that. And I remain a hopeful man, and perhaps this administration can be the most transformational since FDR's. I read this book with the expectation that I could get fired up and ready to go. There is much of that. There remains much to be done.
Renegade: The Making of a President is available at Jackson Street Books and fine independent bookstores everywhere.
*Note from SeattleTammy: If you need more reasons to shop your local indie bookstore, please watch this video from our colleagues at The Regulator Bookstore (H/T to our SLpal Griffin!) While we can't quite make the same claims, being online only, re-using and recycling our packing materials is a priority for us. I re-use packing paper to wrap your purchase and re-cycle bubble envelopes whenever possible. We ship via US Postal services and the mailman is already coming to your house, so we aren't dispatching a separate truck.


  1. Bon Jour Monsieur SeattleDan and Madame SeattleTammy:

    It is I, Charles (pronounced "Shaaaaaaaarlz"), Mr. democommie's inner frenchman.

    democommie is "sleeping in" this morning as he has been experimenting (again) with his meds and alcohol. He is trying out a new program wherein he pairs potable liquours with various pharmaceuticals. For instance, if he is taking aspirin, he will drink only Absolut vodka, anisette or absinthe and on down the alphabet. Unfortunately (in his permanently bloodshot eyes, at least) last night it was prozac and pernod. I think he will sleep till noon--or possibly forever.

    In any event. I am so happy that you have resumed shipping your wonderful selections of books and will see if I can somehow get his credit card or checkbook out of his pocket without his knowing it, so that I might purchase a few books.

    I think the volume that you are currently touting is probably quite wonderful, but do you have anything on the subject of the Bourbon Monarchy? Mr. democommie has told me, many times, that he is quite fond of Bourbons and is always ready to learn more about them.

    As you are well aware (due to his incessant yammering on the subject--escuse moi, where are my manners!?) democommie's long awaited cookbook, "Dining Al Fresco With The Donners--101 Recipes That Guarantee Mouth Watering Long Pig" has been delayed in it's release. This is primarily due to his problems in finding a publisher who is adventurous enough to take on such project. He is hoping that perhaps the same publisher that recently put out "Joe the Plumber's, "Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream" might be open to the idea of serializing the book. democommie is also hoping for a small advance, in the neighborhood of, say $726,311.48 so that he might settle some small, nagging debts that he spends far too much time worrying about (besides, the whole going around dressed like Marlene Dietrich's character from "The Blue Angel"

    is murder on his lower back, and my self esteem. Though I must admit it is better than being roughed up by the thugs who work for his "alternative" banker.) But I digress.

    democommie has currently shelved the Donner cookbook and is working on, all things, a book about the importance of recycling--yes, it is true! In order that he might really feel the urgency of the situation he is writing the entire thing, in longhand, on recycled paper. The creative juices are flowing, but there is one small problem. He is using only re-cycled paper that is generated by him, personally. It was not so bad when it was just some bond paper that wouldn't feed into the printer, paper towels or even the odd kleenex (those thing's are amazingly strong--even when they are saturated with, well, never mind), but last evening, before he passed out, he was rambling on about used, um, sanitary, hygenic, er, asswipe--there, I have said.

    to be continued:

  2. Ahh, democommie was stirring and I had to go hold a bucket for him to, well, never mind..

    To take up where we left off.

    It's not that I'm squeamish, mind you; if I were I would have killed myself rather than continue this sick and twisted relationship. It's just that I think the world will be a better, and more grateful, place if democommie can find other recycled papers to write on. I am thinking that $ bills, especially the ones with likenesses of President Grant or Mr. Franklin would be most suitable for this purpose. If you have no old currency of this sort, simply make a donation through PayParasite and I will see to it that the problem is dealt with.

    Recently democommie, at the urging of his primary care physician sought the aid of a psychiatric counsellor (actually the PCP said, "See a shrink, I'm done writing scrips for you to party on!") and in the course of his first interview he disclosed that he and I have been cohabiting in the same intercranial space for several years. The counsellor said that he thought it was just a matter of time before either democommie or his altar ego (your's truly) would become the dominant partner, so to speak. I fear that, as this post might suggest, I am succumbing to the rude, uncouth and substance abusing side of the relationship. For the love of GOD, please help...


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.