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Book review: Obama book short on facts

"The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House" by Edward Klein, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 277 pages. Hardcover, $27.95. 

 

Plenty of reasons to criticize Obama without making things up

@by:By Paul J. Nyden

@cred:Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Barack Obama, "temperamentally unsuited to be the chief executive, is "adrift and elusive," self-centered, inept and dangerously left-wing. 

Obama "doesn't learn from his mistakes" and his policies are making "our economy less robust and our nation less safe."

Former reporter and current biographer Edward Klein makes these criticisms, and many others, of Obama in his superficial new book, "The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House."

Obama, Klein adds, is a "product of Chicago-style politics, which is a byword for patronage, nepotism, bribery and corruption."

"The Amateur" has been at the top of the "New York Times" bestseller list for the past few weeks, since it was published.

Klein bases many of harsh criticisms on interviews held with nearly 200 people, inside and outside the White House, during the last 18 months.

"The Amateur's" popularity is stunning, stunning because so many serious charges against Obama are attributed to individuals who are never identified and events that are never documented.

Klein opens his book -- published by Regnery, a very conservative publisher -- stating, "This is a reporter's book."

Yet newspaper and magazine reporters rarely use unidentified sources to make critical accusations about people or events.

Klein also used unnamed sources to make harsh, potentially libelous and highly questionable accusations about subjects of his previous biographies, such as Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Some accusations against Hillary allege controversial sexual ventures, accusations that are never verified.

Klein also wrote that Bill Clinton vigorously, and belligerently, urged Hillary to resign from the State Department and run against Obama in this year's Democratic primaries.

The Clintons vigorously denied all those claims.

In "Think Progress," a liberal blog site, Adam Peck pointed out Klein's falsehoods and his repeated failures to check facts.

In a 2010 article posted by the online "Huffington Post," Klein wrote that Obama once humiliated Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu by abruptly walking out of a meeting to have dinner with his wife Michelle and their daughters.

"One phone call," Peck writes, "would have revealed that to be impossible, since Michelle, Sasha and Malia were all in New York City at that time." 

Many individuals reading Klein's new book probably have no clue about how weak and questionable his accusations are.

Legitimate criticisms

This is not to say there are no legitimate criticisms of Obama, for both domestic and foreign policies.

Personally, I have major questions about the wisdom of Obama's foreign policies, such as escalating the Afghanistan War, attacking other countries without first getting approval from Congress and sending unmanned drones to track down and kill "terrorists" -- ventures which routinely kill scores of innocent civilians.

Klein writes, "Obama's foreign policy ... was as ideologically skewed to the Left as his domestic policy.... With Obama, America was in the hands of the most left-wing president in its history."

Scholars across the political spectrum have criticized Obama's war policies, similar to policies of many of his predecessors, never implying Obama is too far left.

These scholars include:

<z6b-1f"ZapfDingbats">n<f$z$b$> Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and longtime military officer, whose recent books are: "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War" and "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism."

* The late Chalmers Johnson, a longtime historian of the Far East, who warns about war's long-term consequences in books like: "Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire" and "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic."

* Ivan Eland and Robert Higgs, both from the libertarian Independent Institute, argue presidents and their top advisers typically use wars to expand their powers, an argument made in Higgs's new book, "Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War and Economy."

* The conservative libertarian Cato Institute also questions our continued foreign interventions.

These scholars, and thousands of their colleagues, carefully document all their information, very rarely citing anonymous sources.

And unlike responsible historians, biographers and reporters, Klein provides no footnotes to detail sources of information.

Throughout his book, Klein makes little or no effort to examine the foreign policies of many Republican leaders, such as former President George W. Bush or House Speaker John Boehner.

Klein also dismisses Obama's health-care legislation as disturbingly leftist, never mentioning uninsured Americans whose health is neglected by our current system.

Klein never criticizes that system for its growing failures and deterioration.

"In 1970, when the uninsured were a considerably smaller fraction of the population, health-care costs in the United States were much closer to the levels in western Europe and Canada," writes Princeton University scholar Paul Starr in his latest book, "Remedy and Reaction."

Klein never mentions the startling fact that the U.S. currently spends 17.6 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, while other economically advanced countries spend an average of only 9 percent. Yet residents of those other nations enjoy longer life expectancies than Americans.

Klein's own past

After serving as editor of the "New York Times Magazine" for 11 years, between 1976 and 1987, Klein left after he was cited by other editors for "lapses in editorial judgment," writes Steven Levingston,<co> in an article about "The Amateur" printed in "The Washington Post" on June 19.

The "Times" magazine won a Pulitzer Prize under Klein's leadership. But it also "suffered other high-profile missteps" that included "publication of a fabricated tale about Khmer Rouge guerillas in Cambodia," Levingston writes.

Max Frankel, executive editor at the "Times," told Levingston that Klein was ousted because of "a series of things -- his judgment and his style of operations and his taste in stories. We just completely lost confidence in him."

Previously, Klein was foreign editor and assistant managing editor of "Newsweek."

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told Levingston, "Ed Klein has a proven history of reckless fabrication in order to sell books. Nobody in their right mind would believe the nonsense in this one."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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