Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President

Edward McClelland, Bloomsbury Press, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-1-60819-060-7
As Barack Obama’s presidency is beset by falling ratings, a weak economy, and an antideficit mood, McClelland’s examination of Obama’s ascendency should encourage supporters and instill caution in opponents. This detailed history traces Obama’s arrival as a community organizer “self-conscious about his exoticness” and his rise to the top of Chicago politics in his 2004 primary campaign for the Senate. While the insider baseball of Chicago politics can prove dauntingly detailed, the account illustrates critical moments in Obama’s whirlwind ascent to high office. His 1999 loss to congressman and former Black Panther Bobby Rush left Obama “dejected, demoralized and bitter” about attacks on his credibility as a black politician, but McClelland (The Third Coast) is refreshingly unsparing on Obama’s missteps: ”Obama didn’t lose because he was ‘too white.’ He lost because he was a presumptuous young man challenging a popular incumbent.” Political junkies will pay close attention to the story of Obama’s tough political learning curve even as it recounts how the president’s early ambitions bore out his initial belief “that his adopted home was the perfect training ground for solving America’s problems, racial and otherwise.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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