THE STRANGER by Chuck Todd


Barack Obama in the White House
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A biography of the sitting president, who, by the author’s account, would rather be anywhere but Washington, D.C.—or at least, doing anything but practicing politics as usual.

Todd, newly anointed moderator of Meet the Press and a longtime NBC White House correspondent, wonders how so fortunate a campaigner as Barack Obama should “appear to be so bad at practicing the basics of politics in the back rooms of Washington, whether on Capitol Hill, on K Street, or at the Pentagon.” A psychobiography may be needed to delve into the many reasons why Obama shuns confrontation, but in practical matters, Todd has it just about right: Obama is used to going it alone, doesn’t mind the essential loneliness of being the leader of the free world and really means it when he decries the politics of division. All of these things make Obama, in Todd’s overused formulation, a “stranger” in the clubby company town that is Washington. By Todd’s reckoning, Obama may be his own worst enemy, given that in so many instances, his “struggles came from his focus on ends to the exclusion of productive means.” Make nicer with John Boehner, in other words, and things might happen. Of course, as the author details, it doesn’t help that the president’s allies have their own agendas and that policy wonks within the White House can’t agree on whether the economy is good or bad or in between. Still, the author offers a good explanation for why, positively or negatively, Obama seems so removed from both the fray and his own party, having resigned himself, at least in some measure, to the thought that “the Obama brand and the Democratic Party brand were distinct.”

Without much hard news that hasn’t been written about elsewhere and not the equal of David Remnick’s The Bridge (2010) in literary merit. Yet, both timely and pragmatic, this book is sure to attract attention.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0316079570
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014


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