The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House

The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House

This is a book about two people making the most important decisions in the world. One is Barack Obama. The other is Ben Rhodes.The World As It Is tells the full story of what it means to work alongside a radical leader; of how idealism can confront reality and survive; of how the White House really functions; and of what it is to have a partnership, and ultimately a friend...

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Title:The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House
Author:Ben Rhodes
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Edition Language:English

The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House Reviews

  • Malia

    “Progress doesn’t move in a straight line.”

    ― Ben Rhodes, The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House

    Fellow fans of Pod Save America will recognize Ben Rhodes from his many visits to the podcast, others will know his name as that of Obama's Deputy Security Advisor and confidante. This book is sold as Rhodes memoir, but it is really more the story of the way his life wrapped around the eight years he worked in the White House. This book is very well written and though long, engaging fro

    “Progress doesn’t move in a straight line.”

    ― Ben Rhodes, The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House

    Fellow fans of Pod Save America will recognize Ben Rhodes from his many visits to the podcast, others will know his name as that of Obama's Deputy Security Advisor and confidante. This book is sold as Rhodes memoir, but it is really more the story of the way his life wrapped around the eight years he worked in the White House. This book is very well written and though long, engaging from start to finish. It is strange, because before Trump won the election, I basically never read non-fiction and since then, I have been reaching for books in the genre ever more often. I really enjoyed this book even as I felt melancholy that it was working towards what I saw as a sad ending, Obama leaving office. Though Rhodes is undeniably very fond of Obama and has great respect for him, he does not shy away from mentioning times the president was annoyed or frustrated and the fact that Rhodes personal life suffered from the all-consuming role he played in the White House. This book gives great insight into situations no ordinary person will likely ever witness, and I was left impressed, feeling greatly more informed than before, and very sad that Barack Obama, a thoughtful leader, prone to contemplation, and who valued diplomacy, has been replaced by his complete opposite. An absolutely worthwhile read!

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  • Mal Warwick

    I rarely read political memoirs, because so often they're one-sidedly partisan and self-serving. They tend to lack any sense of balance. For example, though I didn't read Hillary Clinton's book about the 2016 election, I saw enough reviews to know that its primary purpose was to deflect blame for her defeat entirely onto other people, when in fact she herself contributed to the loss in several ways. Similarly, I have little hope for most of the dozens of tell-all books that former Obama aides ar

    I rarely read political memoirs, because so often they're one-sidedly partisan and self-serving. They tend to lack any sense of balance. For example, though I didn't read Hillary Clinton's book about the 2016 election, I saw enough reviews to know that its primary purpose was to deflect blame for her defeat entirely onto other people, when in fact she herself contributed to the loss in several ways. Similarly, I have little hope for most of the dozens of tell-all books that former Obama aides are now turning out. But, judging from the reviews, Ben Rhodes' new memoir seemed different. It is.

    In The World As It Is, one of Barack Obama's key White House aides tells the story of his experience in the 2008 election campaign, followed by eight years involved in the Administration's foreign policy work. In Washington, Rhodes "had two formal jobs—one as the deputy director of White House speechwriting, and one as the senior director for speechwriting for the National Security Council." He was responsible for writing some of Obama's most memorable public statements. And, from his position in the National Security Council, Rhodes gained a front-row seat at several of the President's most important foreign policy initiatives, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Iran nuclear arms agreement. In one crucial area his work was pivotal: he took the lead in negotiating the opening to Cuba. Eventually, he became "the one American official who could somehow be on the dais at Fidel Castro's funeral."

    If you got your perspective on the news during Obama's two terms from Fox, Breitbart, or right-wing talk radio, you'll instantly recognize Ben Rhodes' name. He became one of their favorite whipping-boys. As Deputy Director of the National Security Council for Communications, he was a familiar figure in the media. Republicans in Congress demonized him. Again and again, they held him responsible for a long list of invented sins connected to the trumped-up Benghazi investigations, the agreement with Iran, and the Cuban initiative. Given the chance, no doubt they'll dismiss The World As It Is out of hand.

    Rhodes reflects on the experience of being the target of conspiracy-mongers and politicians with no regard for the truth: "It was like you inhabited two parallel lives—one that made you who you were, and the other that was consuming that person, and transforming you into someone else." That's about as close as Rhodes ever gets to hyperbole.

    Rhodes is a skilled writer. The book is simply structured along chronological lines. His prose flows smoothly, and he provides just enough local color and personal detail to keep his account engaging. He is occasionally critical of others in the Administration but never nasty; almost everywhere, his obvious respect for the men and women he worked with comes through clearly. Obviously, too, he is an agile thinker. The conversations he reports between him and the President suggest not just close rapport but an intellectual partnership that few people could manage. You only have to read Obama's own books to understand how brilliant he is. Apparently, Rhodes was able to keep up with the man. Their exchanges, and Rhodes' reflections on the 2016 election and the closing days of the Obama Administration in the final chapter, are particularly insightful and moving.

    From an historical perspective, what stands out in this book is Rhodes' perspective on the events he witnessed: the ill-fated Arab Spring; the bombing of Libya; the negotiation of the Paris climate change agreement; the Bin Laden killing; the protracted process that preceded the Iran agreement; the debate over taking military action in Syria; the opening to Cuba; and the slowly dawning understanding of just how extensively the Russians had intervened in the 2016 election. This is a man who had a front-row seat on some of the most consequential events of our time. His account of the controversy over Obama's decision not to bomb Syria is especially telling: "Syria looked more and more like a moral morass—a place where our inaction was a tragedy, and our intervention would only compound the tragedy." This, of course, was very similar to Obama's own perspective.

    Rhodes' book has been widely reviewed, and at this writing it has been on the national bestseller lists for several weeks. The best review I've read is Peter Schjeldahl's in The New Yorker (June 18, 2018). Schjeldahl focuses on the author's evolution "from liberal idealism to a chastened appreciation of how American power can be more wisely harnessed to limited ends." In other words, Rhodes, who began work for Obama at the age of twenty-nine, absorbed Obama's worldview in the ten years he spent working closely with the man. Is that surprising?

  • Monica Kim

    Ben Rhodes’ “The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House” was a long read, took me bit longer to finish than I’d liked; but an excellent read, engaging from start to finish. Rhodes is a fantastic writer (his gift of writing & training in fiction writing didn’t go unnoticed). I think this will be as closest view of President Obama we’ll get (at least until he publishes his own memoir) — a well-written, in-depth, insightful, honest, vivid portrayal of Obama’s presidency and his administra

    Ben Rhodes’ “The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House” was a long read, took me bit longer to finish than I’d liked; but an excellent read, engaging from start to finish. Rhodes is a fantastic writer (his gift of writing & training in fiction writing didn’t go unnoticed). I think this will be as closest view of President Obama we’ll get (at least until he publishes his own memoir) — a well-written, in-depth, insightful, honest, vivid portrayal of Obama’s presidency and his administration, from one of President Obama’s closest, most trusted & important aids, who had worked closely with him for 10+ years. It’s also well balanced with author’s personal life & thoughts. It’s clear Rhodes has lot of admiration, love, and respect for President Obama, the administration, and our country, but he writes in a fair, honest, well-balanced perspective, which I really appreciated it. So although this book is Rhodes’ memoir, it’s more like memoir of President Obama & Administration years, and Rhodes’s life, roles, and perspectives wrapped around those years.

    .

    You guys know, I’m usually skeptical of memoirs because I find it bit hard to believe & unrealistic that people can recount their past with so much clarity and in such details. But I’m giving Rhodes a pass because it’s a memoir consisting of events that are relatively recent, most of the events we are aware of, and I’m sure he took meticulously notes during his tenure, which could’ve been easily retrieved. Seriously, I have so much respect for the people of Obama Administration (and anyone who works in politics ETHICALLY w/INTEGRITY & PURPOSE), this isn’t an easy job, and definitely not for everyone. There seems to be very specific personality traits of people working in politics. You’re basically putting your own life on hold as you work closely with the president. These people work ridiculously hard, around the clock, traveling nonstop, and Rhodes had done it for 10+ years. President Obama couldn’t have done it by himself, and it’s clear he was extremely choosy of the people in his inner circle & surrounded himself with bright, hard-working, and passionate people who believed & shared his vision for our country. And it seems like every relationships President Obama cultivated in White House turns in to a life-long friendships, and it’s a testament to who he is, and what he truly cares about.

    .

    In this book, Rhodes chronicles behind-the-scenes & thought processes of some of the key moments of Obama’s presidency. From early campaign days, then as a speechwriter, deputy national security adviser, and a multipurpose aide, Rhodes had been been & saw almost everything that happened at the center of the Obama administration — waiting out the bin Laden raid in the Situation Room, responding to the Arab Spring, reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, leading secret negotiations with the Cuban government to normalize relations, and confronting the resurgence of nationalism that culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Rhodes shows what it was like to be there — from the early days of the Obama campaign to the final hours of the presidency, and everything in between. I feel like I’ve gotten to know President Obama & Administration on a deeper level and seen sides of them I wouldn’t have otherwise seen if it weren’t for this book. Rhodes details out the thought-process & work that carefully goes into making each & every decisions affecting the Administration, country, and the world, it is a stark & scary contrast to the current administration. I have so much respect for Obama’s Administration, and I’m sincerely sorry that we let them down with our current Administration. But if the mid-term is any indication, we can win back in 2020, but we have work to do! Thank you Rhodes for this generous, thoughtful, and sincere book of the Obama’s presidency and Administration, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely one of my top books of 2018! 🤓✌️📖

  • Mehrsa

    Man this book was frustrating--on a few levels: 1. Because I so badly miss the obama administration's unassailable good faith and their desire to actually not do stupid shit. 2. Because they did do so much stupid shit because they misunderstood the "other side." Either Assad in Syria, the Republicans, Trump, Bibi, etc. Obama was way too chill to fight. 3. The entire focus seemed to be on foreign policy and that's too bad because there was so much to be fixed on the domestic front. 4. How naive t

    Man this book was frustrating--on a few levels: 1. Because I so badly miss the obama administration's unassailable good faith and their desire to actually not do stupid shit. 2. Because they did do so much stupid shit because they misunderstood the "other side." Either Assad in Syria, the Republicans, Trump, Bibi, etc. Obama was way too chill to fight. 3. The entire focus seemed to be on foreign policy and that's too bad because there was so much to be fixed on the domestic front. 4. How naive they were about Trump and Putin. 5. How much racism Obama had to deal with. 6. The public narrative of Obama's racial identity doesn't quite match what I heard in here. Obama seemed to constantly "get it" and I think most people assume that he was naive about race. He wasn't. He just felt muzzled (see #2).

    Anyway, until the Obama memoirs, I think this is as close an insider account as we're gonna get. It's a good read.

  • Truman32

    “We live in a cynical world, a cynical world,” Gerald “Jerry” Maguire laments, his eyes welling with the pain of isolation. Sure, he had a very big night – a very very big night. Rod Tidwell had an exceptional game. He scored the winning touchdown leading the Arizona Cardinals into the playoffs, but that pales in comparison to this soul crushing cynicism that only the love of a good woman like Dorothy Boyd and her big-headed son Ray can assuage.

    Cynicism could be the primary antagonist of Ben Rho

    “We live in a cynical world, a cynical world,” Gerald “Jerry” Maguire laments, his eyes welling with the pain of isolation. Sure, he had a very big night – a very very big night. Rod Tidwell had an exceptional game. He scored the winning touchdown leading the Arizona Cardinals into the playoffs, but that pales in comparison to this soul crushing cynicism that only the love of a good woman like Dorothy Boyd and her big-headed son Ray can assuage.

    Cynicism could be the primary antagonist of Ben Rhodes’s memoir,

    . Ben Rhodes was President Obama’s speechwriter, a foreign policy advisor, and confidant/frolleague. Rhodes (as well as many of the other players in this administration … probably including the President himself) starts out wide-eyed, intelligent, idealistic and hard working. He wants to change the world for the better. And note: what he wants to change is not crazy stuff. He wants poor people to have healthcare, he wants Syrian kids not to be gassed or bombed. He wants unexploded ordnance in Laos to be removed before it kills more civilians. There is a light of hope. And then every day this light is walloped by the cynics: the party-over-country GOP. Radical branches of the media. Putin. Netanyahu. Like a mugging in a dark Bronx alley, all optimism and hopeful ambitions are bludgeoned and skewered away until what is left is a flinching battered mass of missed opportunities. And when I say mugging, this is like the Notre Dame football team pummeling a group of seven year old waifs and ragamuffins from Sister Mary Francis’s orphanage.

    Rhodes had gone to school for creative writing before politics, something that is apparent in his writing. The story moves fast. The frustration that many on the outside had in the inability of this administration to achieve their lofty goals is felt too by Rhodes and the other Obama staffers who were constantly undermined and stymied at almost every turn.

    The World as It Is isn’t a cheerful story, but it is an enlightening and thoughtful perspective of the politics of President Barrack Obama’s term.

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