Media coverage and reviews of Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest.
Watch my Sept. 7 C-SPAN appearance about Obama.
FAIR’s radio show CounterSpin interviews me on June 26, 2008 about media coverage of Obama and public financing.
My March 6, 2008 interview with WGLT in Normal, IL is available, along with extras and audio of me reading an excerpt from the introduction.
Booklist (Saturday , December 01, 2007):
of several books on political figures, studied law under presidential candidate
Obama and watched his political rise. From the perspective of a man who knows
Obama and unabashedly admires him, Wilson offers a thoughtful look at what
Obama’s candidacy means for Generation X. Contrasting Obama with traditional
politicians, Wilson explains the appeal of Obama’s pragmatic progressivism to
voters on the Left and the Right who have grown tired of politics as usual.
Wilson criticizes the media’s tendency to focus on the superficial, to emphasize
Obama’s celebrity rather than his ideas. Wilson acknowledges that Obama’s bent
toward bipartisan inclusiveness, rather than ideological crusades, while
broadening his base also opens him to criticism from both sides. Despite Obama’s
optimism, his failure to trust people enough to open up and push the nation to
its full potential threatens a possible opportunity for hope beyond the 2008
campaign. This is a personal and insightful look at one of the most popular
political figures of recent history.
On the Issues: “This book is the first solid book about Obama’s politics, from outside
of his campaign. Obama has written several books himself, but those are
necessarily biased by their autobiographical nature. We’ve been waiting
all campaign season for a good book ABOUT Obama, rather than BY Obama,
and it took until October 2007 for it to get published.* (One might
compare that to the dozen books about Hillary!) The author, John K. Wilson, was a student of Obama, while Obama
was teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. Wilson clearly
admires Obama, but the book is not hagiography — it addresses the
serious issues that Obama faces about his personal past and his voting
record. It’s a solid analysis from a pro-Obama perspective — useful
for Obama fans who want to respond to legitimate criticisms. It’s not
so useful for those who are anti-Obama — if Obama goes further, books
for them will follow. The content of the book addresses several key issues that have followed
Obama’s campaign: race, experience, religion, and the few scandals that
have plagued Obama. The book also addresses the “Generation Obama”
aspect of the campaign — his appeal as the first Gen-X candidate
among young people and the blogosphere. The title of the book comes from Obama’s speech announcing his
presidential candidacy, in which he invited supporters to join him on
“this improbable quest.” If Obama ever wins the presidency, that phrase
could become his slogan. *We cover two other books about Obama: Should Barack Obama Be President? and Hopes and Dreams, but both are just introductory — quick-published books which introduce the candidate without the depth offered here. — Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, Oct. 2007″
Regarding freshman U.S. Senator
Barack Obama’s quixotic (at least by conventional standards) quest for
the Oval Office, these books fall between the usual extremes of
unabashedly promotional and critical policy analysis. The more
thought-provoking is Steele’s (senior fellow, Hoover Inst., Stanford
Univ.; White Guilt ), who argues that while he shares much in
common with Obama, he is convinced that the senator cannot prevail in
his race for the White House. In his brief polemic, almost a literary
jazzlike riff on U.S. politics, race relations, and contemporary
sociology, Steele examines the significance and implications of Obama’s
candidacy, concluding that while it is historical-even iconic-he cannot
be elected because he is “a bound man.” By this he means that although
Obama seeks to transcend superficial racial identities, he is in a
double-bind, suspended between black racial solidarity and white
liberal guilt. Steele admires Obama yet questions his character and
policy commitments. If Steele is an Obama agnostic, Wilson (How the Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People), who studied law under Obama at the University of Chicago, is an
Obama disciple. While Obama’s candidacy is perhaps the “improbable
quest” that he himself declared it in his announcement speech in 2007,
Wilson contends that Obama is the most electorally appealing
progressive candidate, one who has truly sparked a grassroots movement.
While Steele argues that race may be the downfall of Obama’s campaign,
Wilson counters that Obama, through his policy proposals and charisma,
has transcended race in large measure, and, if elected in 2008, would
help the country move further down the road towardwhat Martin Luther
King called the “beloved community.” With caucuses and primaries upon
us, we soon will find out which of these books proves the more deeply
insightful. Neither is fully persuasive but each is essential reading
for anyone wishing to try to make more sense of contemporary American
presidential politics and social policy. Highly recommended for all
libraries.-Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Univ., Nampa, ID
Anthony Barrett writes on OpenDemocracy, “The politics and appeal which result have been examined by John K Wilson who was taught by Obama and has written a full-spectrum account of the attacks on his former professor in order to expose and rebut them. His conclusion is that Obama is a ‘pragmatic progressive’ best compared to Ronald Reagan in his cross-party appeal.”(Feb 6, 2008)
A comment to my post on DailyKos declares, “Excellent book! I am one of those people who have been activated by Barack Obama’s run for the presidency. Normally cynical about politics, my past involvement began and ended at the voting booth. I’ve decided to become actively engaged for two reasons: first, I reject the values of the radical conservatives and feel a sense of urgency to repair the damage they have done to our country; second, Barack Obama provides me with hope that the Democratic Party can lead this country in a new direction based on progressive values. I have quoted you and cited your book numerous times…I’ve have found it indispensable tool in my support of Barack Obama’s candidacy. Hopefully, more Obama supporters will read it”
The Daily Vidette at Illinois State University (Nov. 12, 2007) covers my recent visit there to discuss Obama’s foreign policy.
The Indy in Normal, IL (Nov. 7, 2007) has an interview with me about my Obama book.