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Review: HE WAS OUR MAN IN WASHINGTON: A History of the Obama Years
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Thursday, August 5, 2021

Review: HE WAS OUR MAN IN WASHINGTON: A History of the Obama Years

Author: Owen Symes

Publisher: Zero Books

ISBN: 978 1789043310

On January 29, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States—becoming the first African American to serve in that office. Can we now assess his achievements and did they meet expectations? What will we recall about his legacy? What will have mattered most? Will there be legislation, or perhaps an executive inaction, that we can say had some significant consequences? What was his global impact as a leader of the Free World?

On taking office, Obama faced massive pressures. How would he handle a full-blown recession affecting the economy and millions of lives? It should be recalled, while in office, George W. Bush began carrying out a bailout package whose aim was to help some financial institutions that were in horrendous shape. Was Obama going to mess with Bush's package? And how about foreign affairs where US troops were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Owen Symes, author of HE WAS OUR MAN IN WASHINGTON: A History of the Obama Years, points out, there are different points of view. The Conservatives were almost unanimous in their dismal opinions. Robert Ehrlich at the Washington Examiner described Obama as "hyper-partisan and ultra-liberal." The liberal assessments were varied to positive.

To make sense of the Obama years, Symes focuses his tome on an array of topical points which are separated into six chapters: the forever war or the war on terror, markets and austerity, health-care, marginal groups (maintenance of status quo more or less), climate change, and indigenous resistance and the intersectionality of American history. His analysis reflects the extensive body of work he has read and pondered.

What comes out of this study, according to Symes, and based on the information he could get his hands on, is "a president who more than anything else desired to give America more of the same. He was not a revolutionary many conservatives feared, and many leftists wanted. He found comfort in the liberal tradition of faith in a market with some government oversight (but not too much!), of an interventionist foreign policy, of the myth of American Exceptionalism." To Symes, and this makes up the underlying thesis of the book, Obama was a Neo liberal. After a comprehensive analysis, Symes concludes that many of Obama's assumptions did not hold up.

From the beginning Symes clarifies he has scant interest in writing history for the powerful, but in critiquing the power and holding it to account. He sticks to the evaluation of groups and structures, while using individual actors as examples of a trend, tendency, or movement. In addition, he brings in broad historical context which he believes is not trivia but something we need to examine to figure out where we are now.

Our past teaches us about the present because history furnishes us with the means to evaluate and interpret our past issues and positions us to identify patterns that would otherwise be invisible in the present. And Symes does not rely on one perspective when linking to the historical context, but looks to multiple causes. For illustration, when examining the war on terror, Symes realized when assessing Obama, it was not adequate just to go back to George W. Bush. It was fundamental to go back to World War II where the USA emerges with a degree of power unseen in recorded history culminating in anti-communist crusades where we encounter the USA becoming implicated in the affairs of the Middle East. All of this meddling continued up to the present day.

In conclusion, Symes asks, how did Obama do? In replying, he refers to Obama's first inaugural address dealing with the war on terror, the economy, healthcare, and the environment.

Symes reminds us that the administration missed many marks. The USA was still engaged in Iraq, and there was no peace in Afghanistan. There was still the specter of global warming. The economy is still over reliant on the ephemeral efforts of the financial sector; the infrastructure remains rusted and deficient, healthcare is not affordable for most, and economic activities still rely on fossil fuels. As noted, "in helping a bruised status quo back into the ring, Obama fulfilled his promise not to apologize for the American Way of Life-and all the costs that go along with it."

Owen Symes devotes much of his time to writing history, and this shows in his fascinating analysis of the Obama years. Although, HE WAS OUR MAN IN WASHINGTON: A History of the Obama Years may be a heavy tome for the casual reader, it is a fresh and most welcome perspective. It is a provocative study for anyone wanting to get a better comprehension of the Obama administration.

Follow Here https://waa.ai/xdyP To Read Norm's Interview With Owen Symes



 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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