Book Review: Audacity of Hope

Title: Audacity of Hope
Author: Barack Obama

Mr. Barack Obama has obviously been toying with the idea of a run for President of the USA for quite some time. Perhaps this plan was further accelerated after his highly successful speech at the last Democratic Convention. His new book “Audacity of Hope” is further evidence that this run has been on the cards.

In this book he clearly outlines his views on everything from race to health care, from family to divisive politics in Washington. It does sometime read like one long political speech. Care to know his views on any of topics du jour? This book is the perfect place to start. Besides, this book gives a lot of insight into American politics and its functioning. The very first chapter, titled “Republicans and Democrats” traces the evolution of present-day political themes and issues and sets the stage for the rest of the book where each of the key issues are described and discussed. Mr. Obama also does well to trace back history and describes how things have reached it present stage.

The chapters have been written such that each chapter stands by itself and can be read independently. The most interesting parts of the book (as in the case of most such books) are the “personal experiences” such as meeting with President George Bush, other Senators, his Senate experience, deciding on how to vote for specific legislation in the midst of pressure from various groups, his family life, etc. He has interspersed these across the book but the book could clearly have used more of these to give it a more personal touch. The part about Indonesia in particular, though interesting could have used more personal experiences. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama lived there when he was a kid of 6 years, so I guess experiences are hard to recall from that phase of his life.

Given that there is an increasing groundswell of support for an Al Gore run (check out the editorial in the SJ mercury New) , a part in the book about Al Gore seeking funding from investors for a startup after his last failed Presidential bid is of special significance. To quote the executive (from the book), “I hate to admit it, because I really like the guy. But at some level he wasn’t Al Gore, former VP. He was just one of the 100 guys a day who are coming to me looking for money. It made me realize what a big steep cliff you guys are on.” This conversation is quoted in a part of the book where Mr. Obama talks about the importance of winning in politics and the fact that there is no second prize.

Through several examples, Mr. Obama highlights the role of money in winning elections, the role of media (how they tend to take things out of context and blow them out of proportion to make news) and how American politicians are forced to remain highly scripted because of intense media scrutiny on every word uttered in public.

For Silicon Valley lovers, there is a discussion surrounding his visit to Google headquarters in Mountain View.

Overall, the book made interesting reading. It has a terrific title, and is extremely well packaged, yet sufficiently genuine. If you closely follow American politics or care to know about someone aspiring to be the next US President, this book is definitely worth reading.

Mr. Obama has plenty going for him: His consistent anti-war stance, his mixed race background, his childhood overseas, his great campaign skills, his Harvard connections, the glamor associated with his bid, among other things. This book appears to be one more attempt to reach out to the voters and it certainly does justice to that goal.

Will he make a good President? Its hard to predict merely based on this book. He certainly hasn’t made any “If I were President” quotes in the book! There is no question that Mr. Obama is clearly a “center-left” candidate. He is smart for sure, speaks and writes well and it does appear as though he has the skill to drum up the resources needed (though the real proof though lies in the $ he can raise). In short, he has a great story up until now. If he doesn’t falter on the long campaign, he stands a good chance of the Democratic nomination or at a minimum a shot at being VP. In either case, this book can only help and not hurt him in any way.

Vengsarkar: A Refreshing Change

Vengsarkar’s recent comments that “Sehwag was included because of Dravid’s insistence” appears to have created a ruckus.

Unlike his predecessor, there is no question that Vengsarkar seems to have brought a lot of candor to the selection process. When asked about Kaif he promptly said, “Fielding alone won’t do, he has to score more runs” Likewise when asked about Ashish Nehra’s exclusion and the fact that he was a force in the previous World Cup, Vengsarkar said, “That was in 2003, I too played in the 1987 World Cup!”

The issue with his comments about Sehwag is much ado about nothing. In fact, he stated that when he was captain he didn’t get the team he wanted. Its a great justification for why he chose to defer to Dravid on Sehwag’s selection issue. It displays a level of sophistication and deep understanding of the game that can come only with playing cricket at the highest level and having held the top job (captaincy of Team India).

Team India: Less Complaints Than Ever Before?

For the first time, the general consensus among India’s cricket crazy public seems to be that the selectors have chosen the best possible team available, barring a few complaints. Sehwag, Kumble, Karthik are the often sighted suspect selections. But on the other hand, Sehwag’s past success, Kumble’s track record and Karthik’s recent performances have all been sighted as reasons to justify their selection. The coach and the captain appear to be happy as well and team India has had a decent run of success in recent times to counter any claims of unfair selections.

It remains to be seen how the team performs. But for the moment, the “national” consensus about the team appears to be true, though extremely unusual for a country of cricket fans where no one is ever shy to express an opinion.