Ben Rhodes, who served Barack Obama as a foreign policy adviser and speechwriter from beginning to end, has written a book that reflects the president he served — intelligent, amiable, compelling and principled. And there is something more: The World as It Is is a classic coming-of-age story, about the journey from idealism to realism, told with candor and immediacy. It is not a heavy policy book. There are anecdotes galore, but they illuminate rather than scandalize. Even Donald Trump — a politician who seems the omega to Obama’s alpha — is treated with horrified amazement rather than vitriol ... Ben Rhodes is a charming and humble guide through an unprecedented presidency. He writes well, even though he has a master’s degree in creative writing, and he has a good eye ... his achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book.
In politics...how many hero worshippers have surrendered to a strutting, loud-mouthed demagogue? But Rhodes does not regret his choice...he documents in his taut, compelling book. Obama, as seen by this admirer, is little less than a superman – preternaturally intelligent, disciplined, abstemious, unfailingly polite and, despite his self-control, capable of a cathartic emotional release ... Rhodes is never disillusioned, yet the closer he gets to Obama the more tricky and paradoxical their relationship become ... The title of Rhodes’s book accepts that the world as it is, venal and irredeemable, will always prevail over the world as it ought to be ... Happy endings, as Rhodes has discovered, occur only in fiction.
The young presidential aide...preens less than I expected in his inside-the-bubble memoir ... Rhodes also exhibits less self-knowledge than one might wish ... he replays Syria so often — yo-yoing between his desire 'to do something' and 'world as it is' futility — that it’s clear (if not to Rhodes) he still has a lot to work through about Obama’s responsibilities and his own ... The book also convinced me, despite Rhodes’s denials, that Obama overlearned the lesson of Iraq. The president’s fear of escalation and slippery slopes becomes the reason not to take responsibility for a post-Gaddafi Libya, or send lethal aid to Ukraine, or seriously consider options for Syria that might have weakened Assad or constrained the wholesale killing of his people ... I suppose it’s good to know that in private Obama was as worried as the rest of us. It just doesn’t make me feel any safer.