The World as It Is review

Malcolm Durfee O'Brien, Managing Editor

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Over the Summer, a flood of books written by ex-Obama administration officials were released. One of these was former Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications and Speechwriting Ben Rhode’s The World as It Is. The book chronicles his hiring as a speechwriter for the 2008 Obama primary campaign and follows him throughout his eight years as Deputy National Security Advisor and the foreign policy events that the administration had to contend with. In this regard, it is an excellent novel. 

This book is extremely well written, as Rhodes is indeed a speechwriter and analyst first. Better than any novel, essay or article I have read, Rhodes details the rise of nationalism throughout western democracies. He describes how events that contributed to its rise are connected and how certain events that contributed to the rise of nationalism impacted the administration’s policy and himself personally. That is why the significant section of the book on the Benghazi controversy is by far the strongest part of the book, as he was vilified by far-right nationalists and beautifully illustrates how alone he felt as he was hounded by Fox News and Congressional Republicans.  Another strong part of this book is how Rhodes manages to take events that are completely disconnected and weaves them into a wider tapestry that demonstrates how he and Obama dealt with foreign policy and details both of their falls from ideologues, imagining a perfect world where democracy and diplomacy reign, to near-cynics, who want to do the right thing, but are forced not to by the dangerous creature of politics. This is seen when Rhodes describes the administration’s responses to the Arab Spring in 2010 and then the administration’s reaction to chemical weapon use in Syria in 2015. This book is excellent at establishing the kind of lonely awe policy makers feel and helps to humanize some of the people who are behind the scenes and seen as far away figures, like when Rhodes describes his awkwardness at watching Obama and National Security Advisor Susan Rice singing “Thrift Shop” in the Presidential limo, the beast. It is a truly fascinating book overall that shows the struggles of America’s leaders when what’s right has friction with what is best. 

I found very few problems with this book. There are moments where Rhodes is directly quoting private conversations from years prior that don’t seem like he would remember with such clarity what was said, but that is a minor problem that is necessary to the creation of a compelling narrative, as is the constant name dropping. 

This is a fantastic book, if you have not read it yet, you absolutely should. I barely scratched the surface of the incredible elements of the novel. If you want your Obama fix, buy The World as It Is. I give this book ten insane conspiracy theories out of ten. 

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