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For nearly 10 years, Ben Rhodes saw almost everything that happened at the center of the Obama administration - first as a speechwriter, then as deputy national security advisor, and finally as a multipurpose aide and close collaborator. He started every morning in the Oval Office with the President’s Daily Brief, traveled the world with Obama, and was at the center of some of the most consequential and controversial moments of the presidency. Now, he tells the full story of his partnership - and, ultimately, friendship - with a man who also happened to be a historic president of the United States.
Rhodes was not your typical presidential confidant, and this is not your typical White House memoir. Rendered in vivid, novelistic detail by someone who was a writer before he was a staffer, this is a rare look inside the most poignant, tense, and consequential moments of the Obama presidency - waiting out the bin Laden raid in the Situation Room, responding to the Arab Spring, reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, leading secret negotiations with the Cuban government to normalize relations, and confronting the resurgence of nationalism and nativism that culminated in the election of Donald Trump.
In The World as It Is, Rhodes shows what it was like to be there - from the early days of the Obama campaign to the final hours of the presidency. It is a story populated by such characters as Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, and - above all - Barack Obama, who comes to life in moments of great urgency and disarming intimacy. This is the most vivid portrayal yet of Obama’s worldview and presidency, a chronicle of a political education by a writer of enormous talent, and an essential record of the forces that shaped the last decade.
Read by Mark Deakins. Prologue read by the author.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Josh on 06-14-18
A work for posterity, not tomorrow's talking points
Everyone approaching this book anywhere near the time it was released is a part of this story. That is, you have your own story, and if at all you ever paid any attention to the news, or even just absorbed it by living, you experienced the moments portrayed in this book. More so,you reacted to them. As blips in news media. Not as stories as much as a succession of framed events, actions merged with a sprawl of opinions and emotional reactions. And then another framed event welded with words and words about the event.
Myself, I remember where I was, when Obama was elected. When gay marriage was made law. When Obama didn't order strikes on Syria. And for damn sure I know where I was the day after the 2016 election. I was throwing up, sick as a dog from stress. Had to call in sick. But that's me. I don't know about you.
So I, and you, know this story. That is our lives have happened with it in the backdrop. But do we know the story? Are the reports of what happened, followed by a war of words between "sides" to take control of how all of us perceive and thus respond to said events, are they any kind of real story, about real humans? Or are they more just a string of emotional reactions, where the key players cease to be real people, but something more like stand ins for ideas, that we either do or don't like, something verging more upon the lines of a terrifying fiction?
I continue to follow the news, as if I had a choice, all the actions and reactions before we all collectively move on to the next event and it's talking points. In all of it, I have no choice but to react to it, then and there. No big picture, no full story, just shocks and responses.
And then, here does come a story, a full one, about the Obama years, written by one of Obama's closest aides, who happens to be a very good writer.
The book is not an analysis of 'what happened,' it does not tell us how to think about the events portrayed, it is but the recollections of one man's life, while serving in the White House, one man's human story of the work he did for eight years, and it becomes a portrait of the vision and the focus of that work, and of the man from whom the direction of that vision came: it becomes a much appreciated, human portrait of Obama himself. Obama dancing with another aide in the back of a car to Thrift Shop by Maclemore, with the secret service in the front seats, the author wondering what they must think of it all. Obama joking with his staff, being the first to call after the author's first child was born, saying "The kid looks like you. Let's hope she ends up looking more like your wife Ann." Then adding, "your life will never be the same." Obama being short with his staff sometimes, the weight of the world almost literally upon his shoulders. And Obama, after Trump was elected, saying, "maybe we were wrong. Maybe people just want to be a part of their tribes."
That last one is quite a statement. I do not hold to every aspect of Obama's vision; I think, perhaps in some ways, his vision may be wrong. Nevertheless, through exploring it all more deeply, in retrospect now, I can't help but see it as of being a noble vision, and one that he attacked with great alacrity and focus.
All to say, this document stands out in the midst of ceaseless talking about politics. Now if you have come to see Obama and his people as comic book villains I can't say it will change your mind. But it is but a story. A good one, well told, beautiful, grateful, admiring, amazed and hopeful still. It's a good way to frame the world in context, as the author attempts to portray it, at least from his own eyes, as it is. Finished listening to it in less than a week.
26 of 27 people found this review helpful
By Jonathan Callies on 06-06-18
An immersive read; a thoughtful book; a tribute to
I ordered the audio book and am absolutely flabbergasted by the imerssiveness of Ben Rhodes' writing style. A piece from the New York Times articulates well the thoughts I have on Rhodes' work:
"Ben Rhodes is a charming and humble guide through an unprecedented presidency. He writes well, even though he has a master’s degree in creative writing, and he has a good eye. He observes that the national security adviser Jim Jones “had a strange habit” of giving advice to Obama “while looking at someone else in the room.” He describes furniture in Cuba “that went out of style so long ago that it’d be trendy in Brooklyn.” And that’s about as ferocious as he gets. There is no retributive backbiting of internal opponents like Hillary Clinton or Stanley McChrystal. In fact, Rhodes is far more candid about his own foibles. He drinks hard liquor, to the point of an occasional hangover. He smokes, furtively. He eats Chinese takeout, to excess. And he grows. He never quite loses his idealism; in a crass political era, he impressively avoids becoming a cynic. As a result, his achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book."
35 of 37 people found this review helpful