Thursday, March 22, 2007

BOOKS: The Audacity of Hope

I didn't really know much about Barack Obama, aside from the general buzz about his great speech at the Democratic convention some years ago, about how he's a "walking hope machine", and the petty controversies over whether he's "not really black" or was educated in a madrasa. But having read his latest book, The Audacity of Hope, I have to say, this guy really does give me hope. He is a remarkable combination of idealism and pragmatism. His idealism, as expressed in the title, is the hope that our politics is not inevitably doomed to a downward spiral of partisanship and corruption, that there are enough fundamental American values that bind us together as a people and that just might be channeled into support for some common-sense policies to address our real problems. His pragmatism shows in a healthy humility (what sharp contrast to our current Decider and his inner court!) combined with an openness to crossing partisan lines to seek practical solutions. His book was not packed with specific policy prescriptions, but when he did discuss policy ideas, he reminded me of Matt Miller (author of the brilliant book "The Two-Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love"), genuinely listening to both sides and suggesting reasonable compromises that might actually get something good done. The book was less full of policy prescriptions than it was about how Obama sees our nation, its people, and our problems, and about the personal history that lead him to see things as he does. He is a refreshingly authentic voice, a clarion call in our current political wilderness. I am impressed and genuinely excited about him, and even though I may disagree with him on a number of specific policies, I would feel very comfortable having such a reasonable man in the White House.

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