Sasha Abramsky on Barack Obama
December 16, 2009
On December 7, 2009, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with writer Sasha Abramsky about his new book, Inside Obama’s Brain, which was released on December 10, 2009. Something else happened on December 10th: Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. That was the first thing Mr. Abramsky and I discussed.
We both feel that there are reasons for us to be in Afghanistan now, and Mr. Abramsky added his opinion that sitting Presidents probably should not be allowed to receive Nobel Peace Prizes. It just doesn’t sit well with being Commander in Chief.
Inside Obama’s Brain is one of a series of books published by the Business division of Penguin Publishers. I suppose that Barack Obama, by successfully heading the largest grassroots campaign in American history, can certainly be called a businessman–someone who negotiates and organizes.
When Mr. Abramsky was asked to write the book, he began interviewing people who knew and know Obama—people he went to school with, worked with as a community organizer, and knew in the Illinois State Senate, among others. I asked Abramsky if any particular themes emerged early on from these interviews, and he told me that many of those he spoke with, even people who knew Obama as far back as the 1980s, were struck by his presence, which Abramsky compares to that of Marilyn Monroe–an “it” quality, something inescapable.
People who knew Barack Obama were impressed with his self-confidence; some called him cocky, but highly intelligent people are often labeled that way. Friends and acquaintances also noticed his ability to focus, which is related to his intellect, and his ability to create coalitions.
Mr. Abramsky believes that Obama’s community organizing experience gave him the ability to approach problems in ways that can lead to creating consensus. The transition from pre-White House to White House life has been a test of that ability, but reading Inside Obama’s Brain can “re-energize people,” Abramsky said.
That led us to discuss the power of the Obama campaign, and Abramsky stated that it was important to tell the campaign’s story of support and unity. With this book, he provides insights into how Obama thinks, which make the campaign’s spirit and the pull toward Obama alive again in the reader.
Based on what he learned from his interviews, Sasha Abramsky finds Barack Obama to be an idealistic pragmatist. “He focuses on end goals,” Abramsky declared. Like JFK, “he thinks in historical terms.”
I find those statements comforting. I think reading Inside Obama’s Brain will be comforting, too, and as stimulating as a conversation with Sasha Abramsky.
Thank you, sir, and best wishes for the book.