A cogent argument that President Barack Obama has mostly succeeded in implementing his agenda.
As reflected in the book's title, New York political columnist Chait (The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics, 2007), a former senior editor at the New Republic, claims that Obama established audacious goals and never lost sight of how to implement them despite the opposition of the Republican majority within the U.S. Congress and ongoing racism throughout American society. Without tipping his hand about his long game, Chait maintains, Obama decided to absorb short-term setbacks, believing he would win a second term to accomplish what could not be implemented during the first. The author does not pretend to offer a scorecard on every vital initiative presented during Obama's two terms; rather, Chait focuses on the president’s approaches to economic policy, which was designed to alleviate the recession inherited from the Republicans; health care reform and the Affordable Care Act; combating environmental degradation; and navigating the wars being waged around the globe. Within each chapter, the author questions the perceptions of presidential success versus failure, not only among Obama's virulent detractors, but also among his leftist supporters. Chait attempts to unravel what he views as the mystery of how so many commentators put forth what became the conventional wisdom that Obama failed to achieve meaningful change during his presidency—despite the evidence to the contrary. The author predicts that after Obama leaves the presidency, this wrongheaded perception will dissipate. He also moves his argument beyond policy proposals to suggest that Obama's admirable character and steely mental makeup contributed significantly to policy successes.
Chait offers a well-organized, clearly written case that will be valuable to future historians in their assessments. The question is whether readers with different opinions about Obama's performance will alter those opinions.