Yesterday, after finishing John McCain’sÂ Worth the Fighting For: The Education of an American Maverick, and the Heroes Who Inspired Him, in some ways a sequel to his memoir,Â Faith of My Fathers : A Family Memoir, I decided to buy Barack Obama’s, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, in some ways a sequel to his memoir,Â Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Â I had read (and enjoyed) both presidential candidates’ first memoir, McCain’s during the Republican primary campaign of 2000, Obama’s earlier this year.
What struck me about Worth the Fighting For was that McCain talked as much (if not more) about his various mentors and heroes as he did about himself. Â I have now read about one-third of Obama’s second book and so far it’s all about himself.
He jumps from topic to topic with occasional nuggets of wisdom. Â At times, he writes with intelligence, offering insight into American political history and the flaws in our system. Â Other times, he seems mealy-mouthed and spouts cliches and sound-bytes.
By contrast, McCain rarely minces words, daring to criticize public figures, including leading social conservative Paul Weyrich. Â When Obama berates an adversary, he doesn’t identify him by name, such as an Illinois Republican legislator who inveighed against “a plan to provide school breakfasts to preschoolers.” Â That man, in Obama’s words, “worked himself into a lather,” yet since he doesn’t identify him, we don’t now who he is — or if the Democratic author accurately summarized the Republican’s speech.
While McCain lambastes some people with whom he disagrees on certain issues, he shows respect for others, calling, for example, former Senator Jack Danforth a “decent man” even as the Missouri Republican opposed his move to terminate the special parking privileges for Members of Congress at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia (just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.).
In short, McCain’s book in long on specifics while Obama’s is long on abstractions. Â Perhaps, the second two-thirds of the book will effect my initial evaluation. Â I’ll let you know.
All that said, while noting the paucity of anecdote in the first third of the book, I was impressed how the Illinois Democrat described a private chat he had with President Bush the day before he was sworn in to represent the Land of Lincoln in the U.S. Senate.
He recounts how the president, at the conclusion of a reception for members of Congress, called out to him, drew him aside and offered some advice: Â “When you get a lot of attention like you’ve been getting, people start gunnin’ for ya.” Â Then, the Republican brought up something they had in common, that they both “had to debate Alan Keyes,” adding that “guy’s a piece of work.” Â The Democrat laughed and shared a few stories from his campaign.
That anecdote confirms my impression of the president as a decent, likable guy (indeed, Obama uses that very word, “likable,” to describe his ideological adversary). Â And while Obama misrepresents Ronald Reagan on at least two occasions in the first third of his book, it is to his credit that he did not succumb to temptation to appease the far left by editing out his positive impression of George W. Bush.