Earlier this year, I posted this review of Edward Klein’s The Amateur which is currently number 2 on the New York Times best seller list and is getting a lot of attention. According to several sources of Klein’s, Bill Clinton is setting up Hillary’s 2016 run for president. If that is so, this book about Barack Obama is essential reading, because at the time, it was obvious that Klein was the first guard in this quest.
For those of us who are searching for the real Barack Obama four years after he took the Democratic presidential field and turned it on its ear, Edward Klein, former editor for Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine has written The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, part character study, part analysis, part history and, well, almost all gossip as only a journalist can write about a sitting president.
Washington is not unlike upper crust societies of old where servants talked. Everyone knows everyone and word leaks out, no matter how hard one tries to keep it under wraps. For this book, Mr. Klein interviewed hundreds of people in Chicago, Washington, New York, and more to assemble what is probably the most complete picture of just who Obama is and what sort of president he is behind the scenes to date. It reads more like a gossip column than a scholarly work about a president, but that’s more or less what the book is about until one gets to the section on foreign policy where Klein strikes a much more serious tone. It is fitting, actually, since the information presented in the 180 or so pages implies, particularly regarding the inner circle in the White House, gossip and intrigue seems to be the way things are done in the Obama Administration.
Klein begins his book with a look at the current argument between Bill and Hillary Clinton, more or less whether or not she should run for president against Obama. He says yes, she says no – this time. He is anxious to get back to the White House. She thinks she has more time. But, they both know, darn well and good, that the clock is ticking if Obama wins a second term. There might not be a country to lead if he lands back in the White House. Bill Clinton called Obama an amateur to Hillary’s face (and Klein sets out to prove it.)
The story of that fight was related by someone who was witness to it – as were all the stories presented. Klein takes us to Chicago and through interviews with the Reverend Wright; Obama’s personal physician; Douglas Baird, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School; Richard Epstein, former dean of the same law school; Laura Anderson, a republican operative in the state of Illinois and many, many more, including quite a bit of investigative reporting, to illustrate an aloof, largely absent, thin-skinned, overly self-confident dreamer who seems to think he’s won some sort of popularity contest and has no idea how to treat the very people who got him there. He thinks that his charm will get him out of any sticky situation. He has no concept of how to show up for a job or how to reciprocate political favors. Time after time, stories are presented where Obama fails to appreciate, sometimes even acknowledge, the very people who delivered votes for him – some of them big names with national followings, and yes, one of them is Oprah Winfrey. Another is Caroline Kennedy, presented as a woman scorned by the Obamas, and quite possibly the only one of the clan left remotely willing to remain somewhat in his corner and then only because there is no other choice.
The most powerful person in the administration, by Klein’s accounts, seems to be Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama is the one who calls the shots on who the president gets to see socially and she wants to be his closest advisor. She also expects, at least according to the accounts, to be treated as if she is the matriarch in a royal court. Her jealousy of Obama’s attention, particularly from women is a focus as is her sense of entitlement when it comes to travel. She is the one concerned with gossip and innuendo and she is the one who decided to treat some of the most vocal proponents for her husband – namely Kennedy and Winfrey – with disdain. The Rev. Wright had some interesting things to say about her as well and none of it was flattering.
Quite a bit of space is dedicated to Valerie Jarrett and her modern day Rasputin complex. Klein takes the time to tell of her history in Chicago and we find out that she is a product of the Daley machine, but locks horns with Bill Daley while he is White House Chief of Staff. Klein confirms indirectly the stories that came out of the White House regarding Bill Daley vs. Valerie Jarrett over the winter, and actually tells what the subject of the major blow-up argument was. When it came to the contraception mandate, Vice President Joe Biden and Bill Daley warned Obama not to go the direction he did. Even if they are more of the cafeteria variety of Catholic, both knew not to tread in those waters. It was a matter of religious liberty, and politically very poisonous. Valerie Jarrett, Michelle Obama and Kathleen Sibelius honestly thought that it did not matter as so many Catholics flaunt the teaching on the subject. Bill Daley invited Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the White House to discuss the contraception mandate, anyway, without telling Jarrett who did not think it was necessary. He sidestepped her and she got mad. Hence, the big blow-up.
There’s quite a bit more of what I will politely call “female crap” in the book. No real need to go into it.
Several of the traits and habits of bad bosses appear in the book attributable to Obama and his most trusted staff – micromanaging, hiring people for their expertise and then not using or listening to them in that capacity, not allowing directors to hire their own staff, surrounding himself with yes people, poor communication, hanging staff members out to dry, “you people are here to make me look good” (he may not have said it, but the sentiment certainly seems to be there), deference to loyalists as in a royal court rather than on abilities. In any entity, the inside climate emanates from the top. This should tell us something.
Klein goes into great detail on Obama’s desire to be the one to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and that he does so by trying to strong arm Benjamin Netanyahu. Talk about delusions of grandeur. Quite a bit of space is dedicated to this and the other Arab conflicts and hardly anything about the plight of the Christians in the region.
Aside from the disdainful treatment of the Obamas in his telling, Klein makes a few things very clear:
• The left considers their far-out nuts to be just that. They recognize that to win, these people need to be muzzled and be nowhere near positions of power.
• Many high-leveled democrats are still enamored of the Clintons and will work to get them back into power. In fact, Klein rather neatly sets up the reestablishment of the Clintons as the sorts of democratic leaders to seek. Hillary is rarely not in control nor is she ever truly wrong in the accounts.
• Klein implies that it is feared democrats may stay home on election day rather than vote for a recognized failure, which it is plain to see the democratic establishment considers Obama to be.
• The democrats are interested in more of a quest for bi-partisanship in the middle. Klein recognizes several of the poisonous pills Obama swallowed and we are now seeing the fruits of at least one of them (Catholic lawsuits being one).
• There are no original ideas in the Obama re-election campaign. Klein goes to great lengths to compare Obama’s newest efforts to those of the re-makeover of Richard Nixon in 1968 and Give ‘Em Hell Harry Truman in 1948. Unfortunately for Obama, the current political set up is not ideal for either strategy at this time.
In all,The Amateur is a quick read with quite a bit of useful information about the man with his finger on the nuclear triggers. There are subjects that are not touched – the alleged drug use and homosexuality among them – but so many others that are vitally important to a strong American presence in the world. It honestly seems that the more centrists of the left are recognizing that Obama is not fit to lead. The Amateur is worth the read. Just be sure to have an adult beverage handy.