RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin
- George W. Bush's "Decision Points": An exercise in self-justification
- Barack Obama dissociating himself from Bush
- Will the lame-duck Congress make good on Obama's reset?
If a U.S. president loses the affection of America's adult population, there are only two sure fire ways to win it back - children or dogs.
A Book of Presidential Wisdom
President Barack Obama seemed to have everything he needed to win back a hostile U.S. electorate - a pet dog of a rare breed and two young daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9. Now he has added a children's book dedicated to his two girls to that already formidable arsenal. The richly illustrated 40-page book, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," contains stories about 13 great Americans, including presidents, baseball players, artists, astronauts, and even the emigre scientist Albert Einstein. Obama takes it easy on his young readers: the book is 80% illustrations, 20% text.
"Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters" was released just one week after the November 9 release of President George W. Bush's memoir.
A Children's Books for Grown-ups
"Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters", "Dreams from My Father", Obama's memoir about his youth, and "The Audacity of Hope," which Obama wrote while he was in the Senate, form the trilogy commissioned by the major U.S. publisher, Random House. Bush's memoirs were published by a subsidiary, Crown Publishers, earning him $7 million up front. By contrast, Obama's contract was for just $2 million, but his books sell well, and there have already been several prints.
The latest offering from Uncle Barack is proving highly popular with young audiences, but it should also burnish his image with parents, many of whom blame the incumbent president for their economic woes.
Obama's efforts to undo the damage America has inflicted on the global economy have led to accusations of socialist and even communist tendencies. His determination to provide affordable healthcare for the have-nots has been denounced on the Right as an attempt to coddle welfare parasites at the expense of doctors. His ambition to rid the world of nuclear weapons remains unrealized, with the latest U.S.-Russian arms treaty held up by Republicans in Congress.
Well, in the adult world, good intentions are often misinterpreted. Obama knows this firsthand, and has therefore launched a new campaign to win the hearts and minds of the American public with an appeal to the most receptive audience - children.
Turning to micropolitics seems to be the step in the right direction for the president and his team, who seek to mollify the public and restore voter support ahead of the 2012 election. But they should keep in mind that micropolitics - addressing the needs of social, racial and religious sub-groups rather than those of big business and the Establishment - requires a subtler, more nuanced approach.
Literature as a Campaign Tool
According to a recent Gallup poll, Obama's approval rating with women has plummeted from 70% a week before the 2008 election to 46%. His popularity with mothers, including expecting mothers, has dropped to 40%, against 60% two years ago. Women in the U.S. account for roughly half of all registered voters.
Speaking off the record, members of Obama's team readily acknowledge his book is intended for voting parents as well as their children. Restoring Obama's political appeal is also said to be the main motive behind the current spin coming from the White House on social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook.
The Obama administration is exploring ways to reach out to inactive voters, to rouse them from their political torpor before the 2012 presidential vote. And the release of the president's tales - just 500,000 copies to begin with - is no small part of that effort, especially after the rout Democrats suffered in the recent mid-term elections.
With projects like this, presentation is everything. Obama got it right. His lyrical narration is sure to sooth any doubts that he is the right man for America's top job.
"Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind? People of all races, religions and beliefs. People from the coastlines and the mountains. People who have made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts."
After reading the chapter on Einstein, in which Obama describes the great scientist turning pictures in his mind into great advances in science, changing
the world with energy and light, how can anyone doubt that the author of these lines will also work as hard as he can to make the country, and the world, a better place?
Professional authors of children's books understand that kids are a very demanding audience and that they have no tolerance for insincerity. Fortunately for Obama, children can't vote.
Bush Could Learn From Obama
George W. Bush's recently released memoir, "Decision Points," has garnered accusations of plagiarism, but no acclaim. The book allegedly lifts entire passages from Bob Woodward's 2002 "Bush at War" and a book by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, as well as from various newspaper articles and interviews with Senate Republicans, without citing these sources. But then again, perhaps the blame should go to Christopher Michel, a former Bush speechwriter, who is believed to have ghostwritten the book.
Had Bush written his memoirs in the form of a children's book, it may have done more to rehabilitate his image. Perhaps we should just be thankful that this linguistically challenged president didn't try to write the book by himself.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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