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Air America's Thom Hartmann Reviews Obama's Challenge

Posted Oct 14 2008 11:26am

When you hear the phrase “Obama’s Challenge,” what do you think? If you’re unfamiliar with the book, you might assume his challenge is overcoming the inertia of historical precedent and making it to the White House. Now that it looks like —knock on wood—a done deal, and all that’s left is, as John McCain put it, to measure the drapes—where’s the challenge? Why read the book?

Well, if getting there was the challenge referenced in Robert Kuttner ’s new book, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, that would be a reasonable question. But as Air America talk radio host Thom Hartmann explains, that’s just not the case.

Actually, the book supposes that Obama does win the presidency, and it takes off from there. What will President Obama need to do revive America’s sagging economy? How can he become a truly transformative leader, in the mold of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln?

Thom Hartmann’s glowing review of Obama’s Challenge on has more. Here’s an excerpt:

The stories of the transformational presidents are startling, both in the power of personality these men brought to office and in the similarities of the techniques they used. They were all true to their principles, enlisted the aid of the American public, and were highly pragmatic. They were all committed to true change.

[Kuttner] also explodes a number of myths about these presidents, particularly FDR, who had been elected on a platform that was principally focused on balancing the budget and cutting federal spending.

Kuttner takes on the conservative frames that the government is usually incompetent, that private markets work better, that we’re out of resources, that tax cuts are the only thing government can do worth a damn, and that for Democrats to win they need to talk more like Republicans. All are demonstrably false.

He lays out the characteristics both of the times and of Obama himself that make it possible he could be a truly transformational president on the order of a Lincoln or Roosevelt.

And he lays out a series of specific programs and policies – tried and true, by and large – that could bring the nation back from the financial, societal, and international disaster 26 years of conservative rule (including Clinton’s) have brought us.

At a mere 200 pages, this is a book you can read in a weekend without difficulty. And yet it’ll probably more powerfully transform your understanding of American politics, progressive economics, and the role of leadership in saving a nation than any other book currently in print.

Even should – G-d forbid – John McCain win the presidency, this is an important and vital book that all Americans should read, because it lays out a roadmap for progressive change that is now so necessary for our democratic republic to survive.

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