Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: Lightweights In A Heavyweight Political Fight

 Who wears the pants in the White House?

That’s the question that comes to mind in reading Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud, The Clintons vs. The Obamas” (Regency Publishing, 2014).

It’s not President Obama.

That’s the inescapable conclusion after reading details of the longstanding political war between the nation’s most powerful political couples.

It is Klein’s third book about the Clintons and Obamas, which includes his No. 1 New York Times bestseller, The Amateur.

Let me warn you. If you distrust “unnamed” sources don’t buy it. It’s the work product of purported inside information from people who Klein doesn’t name. But, if he is making this stuff up he ought to write fiction – it’s that good.

Because few sources are named, it is fun guessing who said what. For instance, upon reading a long, positive passage about Hillary I stopped with an epiphany: that “sounds” like Clinton frontman James Carville’s speech pattern.

Was it? Haven’t the foggiest.

Overall it’s an entertaining, quick-read at 281 pages, and chock-full of titillating tidbits. For consideration: Michelle and Barack sleep in separate White House bedrooms, and Bill and Hillary haven’t had sex in two decades.

(Somehow I wasn’t surprised by either nugget.)

What isn’t funny about this book, and I don’t think this was its intention, is the light it shines on why the Obama presidency is failing.

As Hillary colorfully tells her Wellesley College girlfriends: “Obama has turned into a joke . . . no hand on the fucking tiller.”

So who does run the White House, and by extension, all of us?

In many ways the Obama presidency is a Cinderella story, which means it also has an evil stepmother. Her name is Valerie Jarrett, Obama patron and close advisor, who indeed seems to be a mother figure for him.

Jarrett is Michelle’s BFF and a veteran of hardboiled Chicago politics. Years ago Jarrett plucked the wet-behind-the-ears, community organizer from obscurity. Obama believes she is responsible for his election as president.

Problem is, he also thinks he cannot be president without her. She is his go-to-gal on topics both foreign and domestic. For good measure (in case he gets a call in the middle of night about a terrorist attack?), she has her own rooms in the Residence. But, Ms. Jarrett doesn’t just wear pajamas in the Lincoln Bedroom. She also wears the pants in the White House.

The book clearly illustrates that the president doesn’t sneeze without Jarrett’s permission. (The only thing he doesn’t ask permission for is rudely jumping up from the dining table to go have a smoke, while guests twirl their thumbs and wait for the sorbet. Or he plays with his smart phone under the table while a guest talks to him, which happened to Bill Clinton).

Rarely is there a presidential decision lacking Jarrett’s nod, if not wink.

And, wouldn’t you know it, she’s a control-freak who keeps people who disagree with Obama away. When people do sneak in they’re his political crew, which gives the impression that every decision is for political one-upmanship.

OK. I know it is naïve to think otherwise. But, when are we going to have a president who does things because they’re right for America, not simply to screw the other guy, or to expand his party’s membership?

Although the book doesn’t explore the IRS scandal, once you’ve read of the political animals in this White House, you’ll have no problem concluding that, yes, this group could have sicced the agency on the Tea Party.

Obama comes across as henpecked and feckless, a man with a limited attention span who prefers detective novels to serious biography. (I haven’t been so concerned about the knowledge base of a president since I heard Dwight Eisenhower, while president, admit he hadn’t read a book in two years. And I write detective novels!)

Attention isn’t this president’s only deficit.

According to the book the Obamas lack the good graces (or sense) to thank people for helping them. Not even Oprah Winfrey, who played a huge role in his election in 2008, got a thank you card. Miffed, she stayed away in his re-election, and admits she likes the Clintons better.

Say thanks? For what? Apparently they view his two terms as a new kind of “entitlement.”

I know the word “feckless” to describe President Obama seems harsh. Here is an excerpt from the book to show why it’s right on:

“Consultation is not in the DNA of the Obama administration,” Vernon Jordan, a longtime Democratic Party wise man, told the author of this book. “Some time ago, while Obama was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, he invited me to join a foursome and play a round of golf at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown. I was paired with the president’s assistant, Marvin Nicholson, and the president played with (Michael) Bloomberg, who at the time was being considered as a possible replacement for (Timothy) Geithner as secretary of the Treasury. When the round of golf was over, the president immediately left. And Bloomberg turned to me and said, ‘I played four hours of golf with the president and he didn’t ask me a goddamn thing.’”


How about something along the lines of:

Why did my economic stimulus package fail?

Should we cut corporate taxes?

What’s your position on a strong dollar?

What’s your take on the Chinese keeping the yuan undervalued?

Should Sarbanes-Oxley be repealed?

Are you a Keynesian?

At the very least, Obama should have wondered whether Bloomberg had passed economics class in high school.

But, no, this president asked nothing of the man who was being considered as his next Treasury secretary, a key government job in a poor economy.

Feckless. Even cipherish.

In the book Obama is pushed around by Jarrett and Michelle so much that you want to stop reading, grab him by the scruff of the collar and shake him, yelling, “man-up, man!”

No doubt Russia’s Vladimir Putin sees the same thing.

Like Jimmy Carter, Obama is simply a man in over his head. As the author points out the most employees Obama ever had in his limited pre-presidential career was 13. No wonder he cannot run the monstrous bureaucracy around him.

The book hints that Obama suffers the delusion of being the smartest man in the room. Oh? Is that why his staff panics when his teleprompter fails and he goes off script?

His infamous Syrian “red line” comment on chemical weapons was extemporaneous, and afterward, Jarrett scolded him. She closed doors to the Oval Office and blasted him.

“A red line!” the books quotes her. “Where did that come from?”

Michelle Obama doesn’t fare much better than her hapless husband.

In the book she comes across as a jealous, well, it rhymes with witch. Tellingly the book claims she barges into her husband’s closed-door meetings with women to make sure Monica Lewinsky hasn’t slinked into the Oval Office.

Other bad players include a host of White House personalities who handle things like foreign policy without knowing anything about foreign policy, which explains why Obama’s foreign policy is screwed up.

The book’s main hero is Bill Clinton, whose singular goal in life is to elect his wife president in 2016 and recapture the White House. He is truly the Obama-despiser-in-chief.

But, the book claims he has good reason. Clinton believes he made a political deal with Obama in 2012, before the election when Obama’s own political staff thought he couldn’t win re-election. Clinton agreed to work for Obama if, in turn, Obama supported Hillary in 2016.

Clinton believes that his speech at the Democratic Convention won Obama his second term. Afterward, when Obama welched on the bargain, Clinton vowed revenge. The book tells you all about Obama getting his comeuppance.

Believe it or not, this book also is about love.

Bill Clinton might dally with Hollywood lovelies (the book says Hillary assumes he has an active sex life). Yet the book makes it abundantly clear that he deeply loves her. This is poignantly illustrated when Bill learns Hillary has fainted at the State Departments and takes charge of her care.

And, the chapter on Bill, who has a bad heart condition, outlining plans for his own funeral, saying it will win Hillary at least “two million” votes, is worth the price of the book, alone, and would be hilarious if not so dark and serious.

I don’t blame you for saying: OMG! Another book about bickering Washington politicos. Who gives a crap?

Normally, I’d agree and tell you not to waste your money.

But, this book about bickering politicos also has revelations about Hillary’s blood-clot and heart conditions, certainly to be an issue if she runs in 2016. It also tantalizes with such information as what was going on at our Benghazi consulate before the attack – a CIA gun-running operation to Syrian rebels.

This book would be a good read for Fourth of July at the beach. However, be warned: it won’t put you in a mood to celebrate with fireworks.

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