Two new titles crossed my desk this week: “Inside Obama’s Brain” (Portfolio, $24.95) by Sasha Abramsky, and “Going Rouge – Sarah Palin: An American Nightmare,” (Health Communications, $15.95) edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed. Both are likely to please the people who are likely to buy them.
Abramsky – a Sacramento-based freelance journalist and senior fellow at Demos who reports on political personalities and cultural trends for outlets such as the Atlantic Monthly, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones and the Nation, among others – interviewed almost 100 of President Obama’s current and former friends, colleagues, classmates, staff, fellow activists, neighbors and so on. He introduces his book thus:
In a very real way, we want answered the question, “what makes Obama tick?” That core question is what Inside Obama’s Brain sets out to answer. To do so, one has to ask a host of smaller questions: How does he approach problems? What ideas and intellectual theories make up his political credo? How does he communicate with friends and foes? How do his many skills play out in his chosen fields, the worlds of writing, organizing, law and politics? And why is it that so many people not just in the United States but around the world are so seduced – and so willing to be seduced – by his words and his presence?
The responses, provided by relatives, friends and colleagues from the many layers of Obama’s extraordinary life, and by his own words – put forth in his books and essays, in media interviews spanning more than a decade, and in numerous campaign speeches and political meetings – reveal the complexity of a man who has become something of a mythical figure in his own lifetime.
Although well-researched and generously footnoted, this book starts from the premise that President Obama is an inspirational figure, transformative for the better; it wraps up by calling him “a living legend.” Those who disagree with the President politically aren’t likely to think much of this book.
Similarly, “Going Rouge” – edited by two senior editors at the Nation – is meant as rebuttal to Palin’s bestselling memoir, “Going Rogue” (HarperCollins, $28.99) right down to the portrait on the cover: Instead of Palin wearing red in front of a cloud-dappled blue sky, it’s Palin wearing red in front of storm clouds and a lightning bolt.
And in this case you can judge a book by its cover. “Going Rouge” collects essays from liberal writers including Jim Hightower, Katha Pollitt, Gloria Steinem, Tom Frank and many others seeking to deconstruct Palin’s “maverick” political persona and policies, casting her as “a Christian fundamentalist opposed to the teaching of honest sex education in schools and in favor of teaching creationism alongside evolution, a climate-change-denier and government-basher alarmingly ignorant of the world and totally unprepared to be president.” It reviews all her gaffes and her conservative policy statements from last year and since, and contemplates “the nightmarish prospect of her continuing to dominate the nation’s political scene.”
Like Abramsky’s book, this one isn’t likely to change any minds, just to reassure those who’ve already made their minds up.