Well, first of all, I think he did write The Audacity of Hope. Maybe he had help with a turn of a phrase, etc., but every writer does that kind of thing. It sounds like his “voice” —how I hear him express himself. I can even insert the meaningful pauses.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this book and I enjoyed it, at first. But I basically read at the plot level and there’s no plot. I want to know more about him, his life. What he did is set it up in chapters where he addresses topics, starting with a prologue, then on to “Republicans and Democrats;” Values;” ” Constitution;” “Politics;” and “Opportunity;” which is as far as I’ve gotten. I plan to finish it, but I’ll have to make this two parts. (The book has an index, which I appreciate. Palin’s book wasn’t on this level at all; no need for an index.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that Barack Obama is as committed to his party and liberal values as Sarah Palin is to hers. I wouldn’t call either on an extremist—I call David Koresh and Osama Bin Laden extremists. But he’s solidly Democrat. He tries to sugar coat, to mince his words. I’m reminded of two acquaintances, one is a woman who has lived all her life on welfare and who is pretty open about her preference and lack of work ethic. She’s not pleasant, attractive or charming. The other woman is one of the most charming people I know, but she’s so incredibly charming and pleasant–at least on the surface–that people tend to forget her goal in life is to live off the system.

One thing I’ve noticed in his writing is a self-deprecation or a qualifying, caveats, if you will. He says of his own party in the prologue “I also think my party can be smug, detached and dogmatic at times.” I’ve noticed this over and over and recognize it as a tool I use, before the “but.” Maybe it’s not as noticeable to people who don’t do the same thing.

He writes that he, like Palin, drove himself all over the state of Illinois to campaign. That’s admirable. He also says that he “passed a slew of bills.” Well, he had a little help from the rest of the senate, I expect. I looked up criticisms of the book and that’s one of the criticisms. I didn’t take them to heart, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t pass a slew of bills all by himself.

The chapter about Republicans and Democrats was interesting–he gives an insider’s view. He writes about senators making speeches that are recorded on TV to an empty house. “In the world’s greatest deliberative body, no one is listening.” And he explores the polarity. He reports a conversation with an old sage in congress who had the opinion that after WWII, there wasn’t such a problem between the parties as there is now because the country had bonded together to face the trial. He writes about friendships between members of both parties.

I’m intrigued by his take on Ronald Reagan, how he describes that the nation was looking for a father figure—Reagan’s “policy by anecdote” and “his gratituitous assaults on the poor.” It’s pretty safe to say he was underwhelmed. He believes that Reagans’s popularity was not only his skills as a communicator, but also that the country was sort of sick of liberal politics and wanted to return to an honest day’s pay for an honest’s day’s work. (I watched his interview with George Stephanopolous
yesterday and he said he felt a large part of the problem Democrats are having now is one of a failure to fully and properly communicate with the public, which I find condescending. I think people have a pretty good idea what Democrats are about.)

Then he says, and I totally agree, “Sometimes I suspect that even the Republican leaders who immedately followed Reagan weren’t entirely comfortable with the direction politics had taken. In the mouths of men like George H.W.Bush and Bob Dole, the polarizing rhetoric and the politics of resentment always seemed forced. . .” which is something I’ve recognized in certain Democrats as well.

He writes in his last paragraph about “ordinary citizens” citing specifically, former Black Panther, Christian mother who paid for her daughter’s abortion, waitresses, nurses assistants and Wal-Mart clerks who are waiting for the government to catch up to them and for the parties to learn to get along.

He begins the chapter on values with a description of an out of his league (as I interpreted his meaning) George Bush, who became a bit agitated in a meeting. What I got from his story of meeting the president is that the two men were pretty uncomfortable with each other. He writes about Bush’s “messainic certainty” at one point. Which made me chuckle because it’s starting to look like all politicians believe other politicians have a messiah complex and all politicians pretty much feel they are called by God. At least Obama and Palin, and by Obama’s report, George Bush.

But I love this statement: “So Democratic audiences are often surprised when I tell them that I don’t consider George Bush a bad man and that I assume he and members of his Administration are trying to do what they think is best for the country.” (I wouldn’t go that far, that’s for sure.)

And this: “Spend time actually talking to Americans and you discover that most evangelists are more tolerant than the media would have us believe, most secularists more spiritual. Most rich people want the poor to succeed, and most of the poor are both more self-critical and hold higher aspirations than the popular culture allows.” I absolutely love that.

Here’s another nugget: “If we Americans are individualist at heart, if we instinctively chafe against a past of tribal allegiances, traditions, customs and castes, it would be a mistake to assume that this is all we are. . . We value patriotism and the obligations of citizenship, a sense of duty and sacrifice on behalf of our nation. . .and we value the constellation of behaviors that express our mutual regard for one another: honesty, fairness, humility, kindness, courtesy and compassion.”

Then he gives himself and his party a pat on the back: . . .”That is one of the things that makes me a Democrat, I suppose–this idea that our communal values, our sense of mutual responsibility and social solidarity, should express themselves not just in the church or the mosque or the synagogue, . . .not just on the blocks where we live. . .but also through our government. Like many conservatives I believe in the power of culture to determine both individual success. . .but I also believe that our government can play a role in shaping that culture for the better—or the worse.

What’s left unsaid, I believe is that Democrats, thus liberals, have the right ideas that result in the better.

Make no mistake, Barack Obama is intelligent, well-spoken, and attractive. I like him. I liked him from the beginning, but as I’ve said before, I liked Bill Clinton, so I’m less susceptible to charm than I used to be. But his gentle tone aside, he’s committed to his party.

To be continued….nobody better call him any politically incorrect names.