Aesthetically Speaking

Book review: Renegade: The Making of a President

renegade_book“This is the making of a president, witnessed from a front-row seat, as it unfolded from its first day to its last. With the help of more than a dozen one-on-one interviews with the candidate and then president—as well as scores of sessions with his trusted aides, friends and family—this account is an attempt to translate the enigma of Barack Obama, to answer the questions of who he is and what ay behind his rise from freshman senator to forty-fourth president of the United States of America.”
–  Excerpted from Chapter One, “Change” (pages 5-6)

The election of Barack Obama has spawned a cottage industry of books about the President and the First Lady. Many of these publications have merely been “take the money and run” rip-offs rushed to print in a calculated attempt to cash-in on the collective euphoria about the historic moment. One author even freely admits in the introduction of her tome that she never even spoke to either the Obamas or to any of their relatives, friends or colleagues. But that didn’t prevent her from quickly putting out a coffee table-type keepsake.

People who were patient enough to wait for a quality opus will find themselves handsomely rewarded by Renegade, a recounting of Obama’s ascension to the White House by Richard Wolffe, a reporter who was assigned by Newsweek Magazine to cover the 2008 campaign from beginning to end. Over those 21 months, he enjoyed unusual access to the candidate, since it was Barack himself who came up with the idea of Wolfe’s chronicling his rise to the presidency for posterity, ala The Making of the President, the Teddy White’s classic about JFK.

Renegade revisits all of the high and low points of the campaign trail, allowing the reader to get inside Obama’s head at critical moments, like after the win in Iowa, the loss in New Hampshire and during the agonizing days of the Rev. Wright controversy. We also learn when Obama identified Hillary Clinton’s Achilles Heel, and when and why he decided to neutralize her as a threat by appointing her as his Secretary of State.

Furthermore, Wolffe discusses the Obamas’ early years together, when Barack’s “restless political ambitions took their marriage and finances to the brink.” Michelle essentially supported the family during that period until he finally agreed to take what “was supposed to be his last shot at politics,” a run for the U.S. Senate. Miraculously, “He burst onto the national scene with a single speech, trounced the opposition, and secured a handsome book contract.”

And the rest is history, and it’s all recounted here in vivid detail.

Renegade: The Making of a President by Richard Wolffe
Crown Publishers
Hardcover, $26.00
368 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-46312-8

July 31, 2009
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