Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Obama Nation

The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality

By Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D. published by Threshold Additions, 364 pages

As I write this, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for the presidency of the United States, Senator Barack Obama, is just slightly ahead in the polls. This is a problem for Obama and his supporters. With current polls showing that the Democratic Party will dominate both the House and the Senate elections, the Republican presidential candidate should be easily beaten. Yet, these polls hint that Obama may be heading into trouble in winning an election in November. So, why is the charismatic, young, energetic communicator not doing better?

Unlike U.S. Senator John McCain, an authentic war hero, with his decades of experience in the United States Senate, the 46-year-old Obama comes to us — the general public and those who follow American politics — as a relative to complete unknown. In fact, as Jerome Corsi notes in this book, Obama Nation, he is so new to the United States national-level politics that he has essentially passed through to without a through vetting of his past. This is the intensive process where a candidate’s life is thoroughly researched by skilled and ruthless investigators who dig out facts that may prove politically damaging in the middle of a campaign. As many campaign operatives will tell you, it is better to know the bad behaviour of your candidate and be prepared before your opponent uses it against you.

Essentially, this book, Obama Nation is a 364-page critical and negative opposition research tome that digs into Obama’s past in a highly critical and suspicious way. This is so dangerous because Obama’s campaign to date has been highly centered on his personality and his image. With actual experience being largely absent, it has made sense for the Obama campaign to focus on his great oratory and the image of transcendental politics that he offers to the American people.

Corsi looks at the “experiences” that Obama is not proud of, and that sometimes stand at great odds to his current image as a man who is above politics.

In particular, it goes into detail about the following issues: Obama’s deep relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of the Black Liberation Theology Trinity United Church in Chicago, his links with the slum-landlord empire of Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko, who helped Obama purchase his home, and his extensive connections with Islam as well as his close personal association with William Ayers, a domestic terrorist with the Weathermen Underground Movement.

Obama has built what Corsi describes as a cult of personality meaning that because he has portrayed himself as a candidate that transcends race and ideological boundaries, he is the solution for all of America’s problems. Corsi’s argument in this book is that while this may be interesting and may have been a successful tactic against a sleeping Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, the fact is we are still some 90 days to go before the American Presidential election. And during that time, the focus on personality will lessen and the focus on issues will return. Obama’s stand on issues will come under closer and closer scrutiny. He has very little actual public record. His personality and his past choices will therefore be examined more and more, and on reflection, Obama will be diminished.

In short, Obama Nation is best classified as muckraking, but I am bringing it to your attention because it is very interesting muckraking. With some 45 pages of footnotes, Corsi has written a book which is highly readable, very well researched and I would say one of the most dangerous investigations in a political sense into Obama’s past — precisely because it has the quality and the content which means it cannot be easily dismissed. While it may be torqued, Corsi’s work is rigorously footnoted and rigorously documented.

In fact, Obama’s campaign has been working to prevent “swift-boating”, the process by which the previous Democratic candidate John Kerry, had his credibility undermined by a group of called the “Swift Boat Veterans”

Part of Obama’s content and speeches during the month of July have especially tried to inoculate his supporters against the expected “swift boating” of him by the Republican negative machine. Corsi’s argument and documentation in this book basically argues that this process will not succeed precisely because Obama has not the depth on the issues that will prevent a negative turn in the perception of him. Corsi is arguing in his book that Obama’s past is, in essence, too radical and too left-wing for the American public to finally accept.

Even worse for Obama’s Campaign is that Corsi’s book reached #1 on the New York Times Non-Fiction list on August 18. Clearly, many Americans are reading this book. So worried is the Obama campaign about Corsi’s book that they have published a 40-page rebuttal and debunking of Corsi’s work, under the title “Unfit for Publication”. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/4773726/Unfit-for-publication).

This rebuttal was in fact better covered than the release of the book itself. I have looked at the rebuttal as well and would strongly recommend anyone who reads the book look to also read the rebuttal. It is however, a campaign document, and a highly torqued one at that – in addition it is attributed to the campaign, and not an individual.

I have not seen a book like this in the Canadian political context, not something that is so thorough, yet at the same time is clearly a purely partisan document on such a narrow subject.

All and all, an excellent read; although for those who support Barack Obama, it will doubtless be something that is as aggravating as it is recommended.