...a timely, trenchant and relentlessly argued book ... Indeed, Chait’s book seems more like an argument with the left than with the right ... For disenchanted Obama supporters, this appraisal may seem like a surprise ... Chait’s argument probably will not persuade many on the right, who still see a president who expanded the size and reach of government at home while undercutting American authority abroad. But it may encourage those on the left and in the middle to come around again to a president they once believed in.
It is not a bad book, precisely, but it is a myopic one, more concerned with salvaging the reputation of liberal technocrats like Chait himself than with advancing a model for future politics ... Chait makes his case in three broad, unofficial sections. The first of these sections is a single chapter on race, 'America’s Primal Sin,' and has no evident relationship to the argument that Barack Obama has been profoundly successful in office ... we find Chait wandering through what often feels like a Wikipedia summary of Middle East policy, landing solid blows on the Nobel Committee before issuing a mumbly paean to the 'widespread admiration for America’s system of government, prosperity, culture, and technological know-how' across the globe ... Nowhere does Chait attempt to engage, or even seriously represent the liberal or left cases against Barack Obama ... Throughout Audacity, we find Chait’s usual dismissal of left-wing politics, and the 'cynical, fashionable' types that aren’t satisfied with the wonders technocracy has wrought ... The dry, slogging, immediate-but-not-intimate voice that works so well in 800-word bursts of workaday wonkery is just unbearable when stretched over hundreds of pages.
...[a] brilliant new book ... Chait reminds us of almost everything we have already forgotten about Obama and the economy ... Chait did some impressive last-minute rewriting after the surprise presidential election result, and he does a fine job of describing the importance of racism to Donald Trump’s success.
In Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail, New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait aims to be first out of the gate with a sympathetic book-length evaluation of the Barack Obama presidency in its entirety ...author considers the politics behind these actions, why and how they happened, and what their impact has been for the nation and the world ...Chait uses persuasive reasoning and no-nonsense prose to make his. He occasionally cites social-science research to support his arguments... Despite its strengths, Chait’s book has some important weaknesses.
Audacity itself is pretty darn windy, at least as rock-star souvenir merch goes. Timed to hit bookstores three days before Obama leaves office, Chait's book is the polemical equivalent of a T-shirt marketed to capitalize on some iconic performer's farewell tour—bragging, in this case, 'I was right all along,' more or less. Odds are it won't survive a half-dozen trips to the laundromat, by which I mean posterity's eventual judgment of Obama's presidency, but we all know these tchotchkes aren't designed to last. To whatever extent Obama 'transformed' America, future chief executives—and Congresses—could easily untransform it right back, meaning it's a mug's game to try telling snowflakes from cement as yet. That makes Audacity's big claims more than a bit premature ... in his eagerness to contradict Leftworld's bummed-out idealists, Chait's own ostensibly sobersided evaluations of Obama's successes can verge on the Panglossian ... When Chait can't laud Obama, he doesn't say much at all ... On its own terms, Audacity isn't a terrible book. After all, Chait is no dummy. But it is a rushed and overhasty one, even to a reader more likely to agree with him than not—too abstract to evoke the flavor of the Obama years, but too sketchy and tendentious to be a valuable analysis of his presidency.
[Obama] would be hard pressed to produce a more congratulatory appraisal than the one provided for him by journalist Jonathan Chait ... at times, the book feels less like [an] assessment of Obama than [an] excoriation of the supporters who feel let down after all that hope delivered less change than they expected ... If this sounds like the conclusion of a writer who made up his mind early about Obama and then spent years defending that position, that’s because it is ... It is a rather remarkable admission for a journalist to make, and I’m not sure Chait grasps its implications. Audacity is confirmation bias in book form.
Obama isn’t Chait’s real focus. His goal is not to understand the president but to prosecute a case on behalf of the liberal political tradition he believes Obama represents ... It makes for an impressive catalogue—but what Chait has to leave out to mount his defense of Obama is just as striking as what he includes ... For a work arguing that Obama fulfilled the promises he made to the American people, Audacity displays little concern with the content of those promises ... Now Republicans are poised to eviscerate the achievements Chait celebrates. Reality has broken the realists.
Chait, in his optimism, understates the force of backlash, of the fierce reaction that always meets progress and often overtakes it, both as it exists and as it can exist. And his confidence that Obama’s legacy will survive gives short shrift to how backlash isn’t just a bump on the road to a better future ... What’s missing from Chait’s analysis, put simply, is a sense of tragedy ... Chait’s self-positioning in the ecosystem of American politics isn’t mindless contrarianism. It comes from a sincere belief that liberals (and the left more broadly) are too stubbornly fatalistic to see that Democratic presidents, and Obama in particular, make real headway on their goals and priorities, despite inevitable obstacles, setbacks, and failures ... It’s not that Chait doesn’t have a point—although, this point may have been stronger had Hillary Clinton prevailed in the presidential contest—but that he overcorrects, understating the real political and policy failures that marked Obama’s tenure. He fails to tackle the more sophisticated critiques of the administration, from both the left and the right.