WASHINGTON -- In his new book, dedicated to his mother and maternal grandmother -- the women "who raised me" -- Sen. Barack Obama accuses fellow Democrats of being "confused" as the Democratic Party "has become the party of reaction."
He also relates how during a meeting with President Bush he found the president seemingly transformed in one sitting as Bush's "easy affability" over a breakfast "was replaced by an almost messianic certainty" as the encounter progressed.
The dedication in Obama's The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream is of note because the storyline embraced by the media and the public about the Illinois Democrat -- underscored by his recent trip to Africa and his first book, the best-selling Dreams from My Father -- puts the emphasis on his black Kenyan father who abandoned him rather than his mother, a white Kansas native, who raised him.
Obama sandwiched in time to write the book starting in his 2005 freshman year, completing it this summer, often working at night, writing as his political stock was growing each month to the point where he is now being touted as a possible 2008 presidential candidate. Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes hosted a press conference on Thursday in Chicago urging Obama to run in 2008.
Obama travels to Iowa this Sunday, where he is the marquee draw for Democrats at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in the state playing a crucial role in determining White House nominees. Harkin told me Thursday Obama would be a "very credible" 2008 candidate.
Iowans this Sunday will want to see if there is some "sympatico, is there a gut feeling about this person.... They want to feel his cloth, they want to see just how real this guy is," Harkin said.
The book will be published Oct. 17 with the launch of a national book tour in Chicago.
Obama, in the most up-to-date manuscript available, talks about his life in the Senate in what is a policy primer spiked with personal stories. It is far more policy, less personal than his first book, though it is written with the same voice.
The nine chapters cover a range of issues: about Republicans and Democrats, values, politics, opportunity, faith, race, international affairs and family, where he dwells on the struggle he has had in juggling duties as a senator, father and husband.
He uses strong tough-love rhetoric in attacking Democrats -- not to be confused with a rant -- not surprising to anyone who has followed his speeches and comments for the past two years.
"We Democrats are just, well, confused," Obama writes. He goes on. "Mainly, though, the Democratic Party has become the party of reaction. In reaction to a war that is ill-conceived, we appear suspicious of all military action.
"In reaction to those who proclaim the market can cure all ills, we resist efforts to use market principles to tackle pressing problems. In reaction to religious overreach, we equate tolerance with secularism, and forfeit the moral language that would help infuse our policies with a larger meaning."
On Bush, Obama relates two encounters with the president. "Both times I found the President to be a likable man, shrewd and disciplined but with the same straightforward manner that had helped him win two elections."
However, at his second time with Bush, at a breakfast meeting, Obama writes, "There had been a moment ... that I witnessed a different side of the man. The President had begun to discuss his second-term agenda, mostly a reiteration of his campaign talking points ... when suddenly it felt as if somebody in a back room had flipped a switch.
"The President's eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty."
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