Review: ‘Renegade’ by Richard Wolffe

by Isaiah Webster III

I just finished reading Richard Wolffe’s “Renegade: The Making of a President,” which was published earlier this month by Crown. The book offers a behind-the-scenes account of Barack Obama’s entire presidential campaign and transition. It’s based, at least in part, on a a series of exclusive interviews with Obama. According to Wolffe, the president urged him to write the book. This book is somewhat noteworthy because it is the first book about the campaign to be published by a distinguished journalist.

Unless you are a political junkie like myself, you are probably unfamiliar with Richard Wolffe, who got his start in journalism at the Financial Times. He currently writes for Newsweek and it’s through the news magazine that he got access to the Obama campaign. Wolffe is also a political contributor for MSNBC, and he can be seen frequently on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” or “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

After reading the 328-page book, I was surprised at how little I learned. And the best passages in the book are the ones that were released in advance of its publishing. Of course, it’s common practice to release riveting excerpts to help sell a book, but in this case, the excerpts were truly the best part.

Even though I’m a slow reader, I was able to get through it quickly, so the book is certainly an easy read. Do yourself a favor and skip over all the background that Wolffe included about Obama’s life and growing up. This book is suppose to be about the campaign; and besides, there are much better books about Obama’s life. Might I suggest “Dreams of My Father,” written by Barack H. Obama?

The one thing I truly hated about last year’s coverage of the election is the degree to which the media took sides. And this book reads like it was written by someone who worked for Obama. There is little criticism of the candidate or his team; and when Wolffe does criticize the Obama campaign, it’s mild at best. (This is in sharp contrast to how Wolffe criticized both Hillary Clinton and John McCain throughout 2008 on shows like “Countdown.”)

Unless you’re a political junkie or a politico “inside in the beltway,” you would be well-advised to just read the published excerpts and skip over this mediocre book.

Rating: 15/30