Tag: Barack Obama

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

April 22nd, 2021 — 1:27am

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I remembered very clearly when my wife and I first encountered Barack Obama when he gave the Democratic keynote address in 2004. I recall my wife saying that she is “ready to follow this man” and then watch him eventually become president. This book gives the reader a firsthand account of this amazing journey as well as a good feel of some of his preceding years. It comes across as a very honest inside look at not only Obama’s political rise to the presidency, but some of his preliminary years growing up and coming of age politically in Chicago. The president is very generous in giving credit to his mentors, advisors, speech writers, and of course to Michelle and his children. The book would be worthwhile by itself if it were just for his firsthand account of what led up to the secret mission to find and ultimately kill Osama bin Laden and this amazing operation. At the conclusion of the book, there were some wonderful photographs, which unfortunately were difficult to enlarge in our i-pad version, that complemented the book in a very worthwhile manner.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, P - Political

Becoming by Michelle Obama

December 7th, 2018 — 12:36am


Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s story should be of great interest to many people because it is a great example of the American dream of a family who worked so hard that their children could have an opportunity for a good education and success in life. It is a story of how a Black-American was able to overcome the prejudices that still exist in this country. In addition this is a first hand account of an intelligent, ambitious woman who not only achieved success in life but also has worked incessantly to give others a fair chance to make the most of their lives. And of course, it is about a woman who married a man who became president of the United States, which gave her the opportunity to become first lady of this country. In this position, she was able to give hope and opportunity to many others. It is also the inside view of the fascinating life in the White House for eight years during Barack Obama’s presidency.

If you were looking for Michelle Obama’s deep-rooted feelings about Donald Trump, you won’t get too much of an inside story. She was angered by Trump’s supporting the false idea that her husband was not born in the United States and she believed that this endangered her family. She reiterated the fact that he is a misogynist and was appalled of the way he has treated women in the past.

It is not surprising that this Princeton University and Harvard law school graduate can write quite well. Although she credits many people for helping her with this book, I am sure she would be just as clear and interesting in any personal conversation as she was in this very readable and worthwhile book.

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Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

July 25th, 2012 — 1:52pm

The President’s Club- by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

After a United States President leaves office he is invited into a secret club of former U.S. presidents where he is inducted into the group in an elaborate ceremony where allegiance to the current President is sworn with a special blood oath…Nope, actually there is no such thing. This is  just my fantasy. However the actual relationships of former US Presidents to each other and to the person in office is one of most fascinating stories that any political junkie could ever read. The documentation at the end of the book confirms that it is meticulously researched   and based on the reports of the people who were there including quite frequently the words of the Presidents themselves in their memoirs and other papers. Even when there were different recollections of interactions, both point of views were presented, making the study of the relationship even more interesting .

The authors are two seasoned political reporters, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy both editors at Time Magazine frequently describe these often very personal interactions of these larger than life people as it were an official organization.  They have chosen to describe the “club activities” starting when Herbert Hoover left office. Hoover had received a humiliating defeat by FDR who had little use for Hoover after he took office. However when Harry Truman was faced with the problems of post WWII Europe, where there were millions of starving people and the US was sensing great competition with the Soviet Union, he felt he desperately needed help. He turned to Hoover who had great experience after WWI in organizing food distribution to a starving Europe. Hoover who had felt marginalized since he left office was nearly brought to tears when Truman brought him to the While house and asked for his help.

When a President has served the maximum two terms and a person of the opposing party wins the White House, it still means that the old President has to welcome the new guy into the White House usually following a bitter campaign. When the new guy has defeated the old guy, that can even be more difficult. All these variations were described in much detail as they took place.

When Truman stepped down, he had to welcome a Republican, whom he had campaigned against, into his new home. Of course Eisenhower, (Ike) was one of the most popular people in America. In fact, before Ike  identified himself as a Republican, Truman was hoping he would run as a Democrat. Harry even played with idea of running as his Vice- President. They subsequently didn’t get along so great all the time. These are some of the fascinating tidbits that emerge from each chapter of this book.

Although JFK died two years into his presidency, he of course interacted with a future president, Richard Nixon who was his bitter opponent in the 1960 election. Their personal feelings about each other are also reviewed in this book . Despite being of opposite parties, when JFK had to deal with a  proposed invasion of Cuba and then the failure of this invasion, who did he turn to as an adviser?  It was Eisenhower (not that he always listened to him).

Obviously when sitting Presidents phone ex- Presidents and ask for advice, it often is not for pubic consumption. When Lyndon Johnson found himself suddenly the President of the US after the assassination of JFK   he called the club members for advice, Hoover, Truman and Ike. So many behind the scene stories emerge which concern interactions as well as battles between Presidents, former presidents and even future presidents. While Johnson was finishing his  one and only elected term as President, peace talks were off and on in Viet Nam. Nixon was running against Humphrey and if peace looked good, it would be helpful for Humphrey and the Democrats.  Whereas if peace talks seem to be failing or were delayed it would be good for Nixon. It turns out that Nixon actually was doing a lot of behind the scenes shenanigans to cause the peace talks to be held up, much to Johnson and the Democrat’s disadvantage. This book tells it all.

Johnson when he left office was quite hurt that he hadn’t ended the war and that of course was the reason he decided not to seek a second term. Despite some of his personal negative feeling for the actions of Nixon, they had a great deal of respect for each other and it was quite meaningful when Nixon called upon LBJ for advice and some help. There was no doubt that when Nixon left office he was disgraced and humiliated after the Watergate scandal caused him to resign. His relationship with his successor Gerald Ford and Ford’s decision to offer Nixon a Presidential Pardon provides interesting insights into the thinking that goes into presidential decisions and how they are often made, despite the opinions of their advisers.

Nixon, once out of office spent the next 25 years attempting to rehabilitate his image. Which of the subsequent Presidents would you imagine treated him with the most respect and listened to his advice? It wasn’t Ford, Carter or senior Bush. It was Bill Clinton who early on  took the advice  of Nixon how to support Boris Yelsin in Russia and frequently discussed with him everything from foreign policy to the how he raised his daughter in the White House. This book supplies so many inside details about these relationships culled from numerous memoirs of the actual participants and their aides.

Reagan didn’t seem to utilize former Presidents as much as others did. However when Reagan went to visit a newly elected President Clinton he did offer an important piece of advice. He taught Clinton how to salute so he could respond properly to military salutes.. Also when Reagan had completed his second term and his protégé Vice President George H. Bush was running for President, he asked the advice of Richard Nixon how he could help his VP in the race against the Democrat Dukakis. Nixon of course had served as VP to Eisenhower and experienced how Ike hadn’t helped him enough in his run against JFK in 1960. Nixon gave Reagan detailed advice of what he should do and the he predicted that Bush will ask Reagan to campaign in California in the last two weeks of the election and that would make the difference. That is exactly what happened and Bush nosed out his opponent with the last minute undecided votes from California going to him to make the difference. Many observers believe that it  was  based on Reagan’s finest speech in the closing moments of  that campaign.

Carter was always a renegade of the club. When Clinton would call upon him to carry out a mission in North Korea, he would do a great job but then “go rogue” and call a press conference that would steam the current President. In the end, everyone  of the Presidents felt a great respect for the Presidency and the person holding the office. They all shared a unique experience  and the felt great empathy for the person in the job.

There were many surprising moments described in this book about the relationships between the Presidents. Perhaps the two most touching stories were between Father and son – George W President and his father. When George H visited his son George W in the oval office of the White House for the first time as President,  they were both speechless and cried.. Later on when the younger Bush sent a message to his father to tell him that he had committed the US to war, the elder Bush wrote him a personal note quoting the words of his daughter, the younger Bushes sister  who died of leukemia as a child ,“ I love you more than tongue can tell.”

Finally, there is the ongoing relationship that exists to day between the 2 Bushes and their formerly arch-enemy Bill Clinton. The elder Bush and Bill are particularly close and have worked together at Obama’s request to raise money and distribute it as well as food and supplies for several world wide humanitarian projects.  The three Bushes call each other by their presidential number. So when hanging out at a “Club” gathering perhaps at the Bush ranch in Texas, “43” would say “41 put some hot dogs on the fire, #42 is hungry.” That is how it really goes at the President’s Club. (2012)


Comment » | HI - History, P - Political

The Audacity To Win by David Plouffe

November 28th, 2009 — 5:57am

Audacity to WinThe Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory by David Plouffe

Newly elected President Barack Obama encouraged his 41 year old campaign manager to write this book and tell the story of his presidential campaign which two years previously was quite improbable. It is the story of Barack Obama, a newly elected US Senator who and his close brilliant political advisor David Axelrod who brought in his junior partner to join their team and ultimately take the reigns of one of the most remarkable political campaigns in modern history.

Axelrod and Plouffe with perhaps several other close senior members of their team such as Ed Gibbss who became Obama’s Press Secretary put together a smooth running campaign machine which built an Internet network of millions of dedicated volunteers and contributors, the like of which has never been seen before. This certainly dwarfed the short lived Howard Dean Internet campaign of several years previously as well as that of any of his primary opponents or that of John McCain.

While the size ( in both persons and amount of money raised ) was quite unique, it was the free flowing frequent communications to this network, the discipline to stay on message and the confidence in their clear electoral strategy which probably best characterized the ingredients which made them so successful. They were experienced people who knew that they could not allow any leaks to the press and that they had to do their own polling and focus groups, which they did quite frequently. They paid meticulous attention to detail as professionals should do and they had intense prolonged daily conversations among their small group which of course included the candidate himself. Plouffe described the importance of these evening conversations where the every twist and turn of the campaign was analyzed and discussed usually among a very small group.

Of course the victor writes the history which will most likely stand as the record. The story does ring true and is consistent with what we know happened. The should be no contesting the information of how the troops were deployed and the money spent as that is on the record. Obama’s two major opponents Hillary Clinton in the primary and John McCain are for the most part treated and described with mostly respect and admiration. However their campaigns are at times depicted as inept , making blunders and miscalculations. Mark Penn one of Hillary’s most important advisor is shown particularly as making major mistakes.

Since Plouffe was so close to the candidate a and family during the campaign does seem to be some insight into the character and sincerity of belief of both Obama and his wife Michelle. Both candidate and campaign manager came across as caring people who loved their families deeply but accepted the necessary rigors of the campaign because they really believed that Obama had something special to offer which country needed at this time.

One of the most memorable lines in the book was at the time that the Reverend Wright inflammatory remarks became a factor in the campaign. It was at this time , the campaign advisors changed their previous position that it was not necessary for Obama the first black candidate to talk in any depth about race. Obama wanted to give an in depth speech about race and what it meant to be a black American running for President. He also felt he had to do the major writing of the speech. However there was little time to prepare and this major address. Plouffe recalls asking Obama if he felt he could pull it off. Obama relied , “ Don’t worry I have writing this speech for the past 30 years”

The book clearly spells out so many of the nuances of their strategy both in hard fought primary against Hillary Clinton and then the election campaign against John McCain. Each phase was mapped out in advance in a very thoughtful manner. IN the primary it was essential that they win Iowa which was the first and most important by their standards in order to get them clearly in the ballgame. They brought in a army of volunteers as well as mobilizing young people in the state. Similarly in the actual election campaign, the strategy was to win every state that Kerry had won in his previous unsuccessful election bid 4 years ago as well as specific additional electoral votes from states in which they thought they would stand a chance of winning in order to needed to bring them over the 270 mark was worked out in great detail. They left no detail unplanned. In fact they had several scenarios, which were determined to achieve so guarantee victory. How they conceptualized each subsequent state and how they calculated every convention delegate and ultimately the super delegates and then each block of electoral votes was a work of art or at least a work of political genius. For example , Nebraska is a rare state that divides its electoral votes. Plouffe calculated that Nebraska would go Republican except one small area in the state labeled Nebraska 2. Therefore this area was specifically targeted. And funds and volunteers were funneled into this one part of the state Although ultimately it was not needed for the landslide victory on election nite, the campaign Plouffe got great satisfaction in winning Nebraska.

Funding was essential in order to support their staff , Internet operation and to buy expensive TV adds and arrange events in each of the states. They made a very difficult decision NOT to accept federal funding which would have been something like 85 million dollars. Instead they would forgo that and try to raise even more than that amount through their Internet campaign mostly from small contributions. They ultimately achieved about twice that amount and the decision paid off for them. However it was a difficult one to make since they had initially made statements that they favored public funding of presidential campaigns If you accept federal funding you can’t accept additional funding so your supporters rather than give to the candidate would then give money to the Democratic National Committee ( DNC) or the Republican RNC in the case of McCain. . These entities then function as an Independent Expenditure and are not allowed by federal law to communicate with the candidate about strategy or coordinate their efforts so they mount an independent campaign plan. So in the end McCain who accepted federal funding had 85 million from them and the RNC raised 250 million which they could spend without coordination with McCain’s campaign.. Obama by not accepting federal fund could raise as much as they could (with the usual limitations of 2300 from individuals. Obama raised at least 450,000 million for his campaign since he did not accept federal funding. The DNC raised less than half that amount which they could spend for him but not with his coordination. So Obama out raised McCain by a significant amount and could much better coordinate the strategy and spending.

The Obama campaign from the very beginning made decision on what seemed best for Obama and was less influenced by what things cost. For example they spent the money to utilize Mile High Stadium so he could accept the nomination in a larger and more dramatic venue. At the conclusion of the campaign they bought air time for a 30 minutes speech to the American People about the economy and other significant issues rather than short less substantial advertisements. Most of the time money was no object for them

Plouffe is deservedly proud of how he set up and coordinated his close to five million volunteers. Not only could he repeatedly go back to them for contributions which they responded but he utilized them to get across any message that was needed at whenever it was needed. He communicated with his net work on a almost daily basis which means he could provide speaking points on any issue that came up. This mean t that there could be an immediate response to any question raised and the network of people would be speaking to their neighbors and co-workers the next day on message . The volunteers appreciated being kept in the loop and were very responsive when they were asked to knock on doors, write letters, make phone calls or even give more money.

In the end it was a real grassroots campaign and the Internet was the soil in which it grew. It was conceptualized by a team led by a brilliant young man who shared his boss’s vision and with odds against them in the starting gate but i they had the audacity to win.

Comment » | H - Humor, P - Political

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