The Obama that emerges from its pages is not, Mr Freddoso says, “a bad person. It’s just that he’s like all the rest of them. Not a reformer. Not a Messiah. Just like all the rest of them in Washington.” And the author makes a fairly compelling case that this is so. The best part of the book concentrates on Mr Obama’s record in Chicago, his home town and the place from which he was elected to the Illinois state Senate in 1996, before moving to the United States Senate in 2004. The book lays out in detail how this period began in a way that should shock some of Mr Obama’s supporters: he won the Democratic nomination for his Illinois seat by getting a team of lawyers to throw all the other candidates off the ballot on various technicalities. One of those he threw off was a veteran black politician, a woman who helped him get started in politics in the first place.The Economist covering The Case Against Barack Obama.
If Mr Obama really were the miracle-working, aisle-jumping, consensus-seeking new breed of politician his spin-doctors make him out to be, you would expect to see the evidence in these eight years. But there isn’t very much. Instead, as Mr Freddoso rather depressingly finds, Mr Obama spent the whole period without any visible sign of rocking the Democratic boat.
He was a staunch backer of Richard Daley, who as mayor failed to stem the corruption that has made Chicago one of America’s most notorious cities. Nor did he lift a finger against John Stroger and his son Todd, who succeeded his father as president of Cook County’s Board of Commissioners shortly before Stroger senior died last January. Cook County, where Chicago is located, has been extensively criticised for corrupt practices by a federally appointed judge, Julia Nowicki.
The full extent of Mr Obama’s close links with two toxic Chicago associates, a radical black preacher, Jeremiah Wright, and a crooked property developer, Antoin Rezko, is also laid out in detail. The Chicago section is probably the best part of the book, though the story continues: once he got to Washington, DC, Mr Obama’s record of voting with his party became one of the most solid in the capital. Mr Freddoso notes that he did little or nothing to help with some of the great bipartisan efforts of recent years, notably on immigration reform or in a complex battle over judicial nominations.
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