An oral biography of the Barack Obama administration, culled from interviews conducted between May 2016 and October 2017.
Abrams (Die Hard: An Oral History, 2016, etc.) takes snippets from his interviews with all the players in this real-life drama, from the election through the end of the administration. The flowing narrative includes revealing insights from a wide variety of both Democratic and Republican politicians, speechwriters, attorneys, and others, from David Axelrod to the West Wing receptionist. Readers experience the first campaign and the many attendant doubts, starting with the uncertainty about whether Obama could even win the nomination. Success meant the team had to go into overdrive, and that’s what they did, taking on an economic collapse, the fraught stimulus bill, stabilizing the Middle East cease-fire, and a promise from Republicans that they would never compromise and would fight the Democrats on everything. Luckily, Obama had a great team working with him, most of whom would do anything he asked of them. That was a trait that held throughout the administration, as people who were burned out by life in Washington, D.C., took on even more assignments just because the president asked them. The author effectively shows the incredible patience exhibited by the president and the invaluable help proffered by Vice President Joe Biden, whose 30 years of experience in Washington provided that extra push when it was required (often). Unfortunately, Republicans were sworn to a policy of obstructionism and manipulation of the legislative process, and the frustrations of the president and his staff are abundantly clear throughout the narrative. At the beginning of the book, Abrams lists the “participants” and their titles; in the appendix, the author provides a complete listing of all of the staff members during Obama’s terms in office. Though technically “unauthorized,” Abrams put in the work with his dozens of interviews, and he also “received cooperation from the Obama White House, the Obama Foundation, and the postpresidency Office of Barack and Michelle Obama.”
An entertaining, enlightening look at an administration that was never dull.