Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Audacity of Hope: A Summary

Most leaders will communicate their intended policies through the books that they write.  I recently spent some time going back through Barack Hussein Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" looking at it through the lens of the last three years of his Presidency.  What follows is a summary of the ideas and beliefs that he presented in this book which was published in 2006.

1.  The Constitution.  The Constitution is a "living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world."  (page 90)  Also, implicit in the Constitution was the rejection of any form of absolute truth. (93)
2. Evolution.  He believes in evolution and scientific inquiry. (10)
3. Global warming.  He believes in global warming.  (10)
4. Change.  "That's the topic of this book: how we might begin the process of changing our politics and our civic life."  (9)  Unfortunately, he does not elaborate on how he plans to do this, or what he wants to change them into.  He spends his greatest effort throughout the book identifying the characteristics of America that he believes are wrong and need to be fixed.
5. The Nation's Founding.  He believes that the stories of the founding of the United States of America are a myth. (92)  ("Maybe I am too steeped in the myth of the founding to reject it entirely.")
6. Bush's Tax Cuts.  He seeks to reverse the tax cuts put in place by his predecessor. (114)
7. The 99%.  He entered politics to serve the 99%. (114)  He also has a sense of self-loathing for having spent time hanging out with the 1%. (113-4)
8. Unions.  He believes that the unions represent the 99%, so he and the unions share the same purpose--to serve the 99%.  (119)  We must "level the playing field between organized labor and employers." (181)
9. The Press.  He is unhappy with how partisan the press has become and singles out entities like FoxNews, talk radio, and bloggers as being prime examples of how biased they are.  (121-4)
10. The Marketplace.  He believes that the government should be much more active in the marketplace, especially during times of economic upheaval and transition.  (150)
11.  Investment.  He wants to invest in education, science and technology, and the pursuit of energy independence.  (159)
12. Redistribution of wealth.  He seeks to "distribute the costs and benefits of globalization more fairly across the population." (176)  "And what would help minority workers are the same things that would help white workers: the opportunity to earn a living wage, the education and training that lead to such jobs, labor laws and tax laws that restore some balance to the distribution of the nation's wealth, and health-care, child care, and retirement systems that working people can count on." (245-6)
13. Ownership Society.  He opposes America's "Ownership Society" with a "winner-take-all" economy because it does not "try to spread the risks and rewards of the new economy among all Americans." (180)  He then uses health care as an example of the current system being biased toward those who are healthy, wealthy, or just plain lucky.
14. Minimum wage.  He believes we should raise the minimum wage (actual amount not specified).  He believes in wage insurance.  The current system of unemployment insurance needs to be updated.  (181)
15. 401(k).  We must have a universal 401(k) program. (183)
16. Health Care.  We must have universal health care. (184)
17. The Warren Buffett Rule.  Warren Buffett: "...the market isn't so good at making sure that the wealth that's produced is being distributed fairly or wisely.  Some of that wealth has to be plowed back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, and to maintain our infrastructure, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in the market economy.  And it just makes sense that those of us who've benefited most from the market should pay a bigger share." Obama: "So let's be clear.  The rich in America have little to complain about....  I simply believe that those of us who have benefited most from this new economy can best afford to shoulder the obligation of ensuring every American child has a chance for that same can afford to pay a bit more in taxes."  (189-93)
18. Progressivism.  He confirms that he is a Progressive.  (214, 216)
19. The Religious Right.  He very much desires to block the Religious Right. (216)
20. Guns.  He believes in keeping guns out of the inner cities. (215)
21. Discrimination.  "I believe in vigorous enforcement of our nondiscrimination laws." Also believes in a "genuine commitment to diversity." (215)  "We might start with the unfinished business of the civil rights movement--namely, enforcing nondiscrimination laws in such basic areas as employment, housing, and education." (243) Believes in the effectiveness of affirmative action programs. (244)
22. Education.  "I think we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys, and give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies..." (215)
23. Separation of Church and State.  Believes that the Constitution dictates that there will be a separation of Church and State. (216-7)  (This is not a correct interpretation of the Constitution, nor of supporting documents often cited to claim that this separation exists.)
24. Christian Nation.  "Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers." (218)
25. His Understanding of the Bible.  "But let's assume that we only had Christians within our borders.  Whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?  James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?  Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy?  Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests that slavery is all right and eating shellfish is an abomination?  How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?  Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount--a passage so radical that it's doubtful the Defense Department would survive its application?" (218)
26. On Politics and Religion.  "...politics...involves compromise, the art of the possible.  At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise.  It insists on the impossible....  To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing." (219-220)  This sounds very much like the Hegelian.  Regardless, the President sees no place for religion in the politic realm.  Much like religion does not belong in science (see his discussion on page 219).
27. Secularism.  He hints to being a secularist:  "It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God"; I didn't." (221)
28. Abortion.  He supports legalized abortion.  (222)
29. Homosexual Civil Unions.  He supports civil unions between homosexuals. "I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex--nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount." (222)  I find it interesting how he says that religion has no place in politics, yet feels the need to justify his beliefs based on how he believes the Bible should be interpreted.
30. Christianity.  He claims to be a Christian, and the Bible is open to "new revelations."  "When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations--whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion." (223-4)  Sounds very much like how he looks upon the Constitution.
31. Muslims.  "...I will stand with [Muslims] should the political winds shift in an ugly direction." (261)
32. Globalization.  "Globalization makes our economy, our health, and our security all captive to events on the other side of the world.  And no other nation on earth has a greater capacity to shape that global system, or to build consensus around a new set of international rules that expand the zones of freedom, personal safety, and economic well-being.  Like it or not, if we want to make America more secure, we are going to have to help make the world more secure." (304)
33. Threats.  The three fastest growing threats are terrorists, pandemic disease, and climate change. "...there will be times when we must again play the role of the world's reluctant sheriff.  This will not change--nor should it." (306)
34. Unilateralism.  "...the United States...has the unilateral right to defend itself against attack." (308)  Believes we must act in conjunction with international norms when that action goes beyond self defense.  (309)
35. International Organizations.  "...we should be spending more time and money trying to strengthen the capacity of international institutions so that they can do some of this work for us."  (320)

Finally, he mentions former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt quite often throughout his work.  I hope this helps some of you understand how our President thinks and acts without having to read "The Audacity of Hope" for yourself.  Frankly, I did find the book enlightening, as it helped to shed light on his ideology.

Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own, and do not reflect the opinions or official positions of any United States Government agency, organization or department.


  1. Than you for this excellent summary! It should clarify much about the man

  2. "The Audacity of Hope", really it's taking time to digest.