Another Barack Obama staffer reveals his White House experiences.
During his campaign for the presidency and his two terms in office, Obama gathered a cadre of young, articulate, and apparently tireless men and women to serve him. In his debut memoir, Pfeiffer, now co-host of the political podcast Pod Save America, recounts his stints as Obama’s traveling secretary during the campaign and later director of communications (2009-2013) and senior adviser (until 2015). The author’s warm, affectionate portrait of Obama and revelations about pre-Trumpian politics complement recent memoirs by Alyssa Mastromonaco (deputy chief of staff), David Litt (speechwriter), Pat Cunnane (senior writer), and David Axelrod (political adviser) in what appears to be a growing genre. Pfeiffer, an unabashed admirer, burnishes a familiar image of Obama as focused, idealistic, pragmatic, funny, caring, shrewd, savvy, and confidently competitive. “Obama does not like to lose at anything,” writes the author, “—golf, basketball, cards, Scrabble, and most certainly campaigns.” The author disputes the notion that Obama was aloof: “He is a truly decent and empathetic human who genuinely liked being around people (less so members of Congress angling for a photo and a pork barrel project).” He was challenged, though, by a Republican Congress determined to thwart every effort and policy decision and from a vicious media firestorm—eagerly propagated by Fox—over his place of birth. “If you want to know why nativism and racism are resurgent in the Republican Party,” the author writes, “look to Fox News. And if you want to know how we ended up with Trump as president, yet again just look to Fox News.” Part of Pfeiffer’s motivation in writing is to encourage voters—especially millennials—“to knock the GOP upside the head and convince them that they have to abandon not just Trump but Trumpism.” The current Republican Party is composed of “clowns, con men, and racists” and those who enable them, such as “diabolical” and “cynical” Mitch McConnell. Pfeiffer argues that a new path requires Democrats to be “audacious, authentic, and inspirational.”
A nostalgic look back and hopeful look forward.