New Internationalist

The Obama Syndrome

Issue 437

By Tariq Ali

If you want to read a book about Barack Obama this isn’t it. What the veteran radical writer Tariq Ali has produced is a kind of polemic about the current state of the US polity at home and abroad. As such it is a depressing primer for the upcoming November midterm elections which will likely only make things more dire. He has hung it on Obama as the current manifestation of the general malaise affecting the US.

Ali is unstinting in his disdain for the first black US president but is at too great pains to dismiss any difference at all between Obama and the Bush Boys, dumping nuance and a deeper appreciation of the currents Obama represents and the difficulties facing US progressives in light of the populist Tea Party upsurge from the Right.

Granted, most of Ali’s shots (supporting empire abroad and caving into vested interests at home) at Obama hit home and his wide knowledge makes for some lively polemic. But there is a kind of smug ‘I told you so’ feel that runs through the text which too often descends into a kind of bloodless chess game of scoring points. Worth reading while keeping in mind the limitations of doing ‘quickie’ books.

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