The great strategist who masterminded Obama's historic election campaigns opens up about his years as a young journalist, political consultant, and ultimately senior adviser to the president
The man behind some of the greatest political changes of the last decade, David Axelrod has devoted a lifetime to questioning political certainties and daring to bring fresh thinking into the political landscape. Whether as a child hearing John F. Kennedy stump in New York or as a strategist guiding the first African American to the White House, Axelrod shows in Believer how his own life stands at the center of the tumultuous American century.
Believer begins in the inimitable world of 1960s New York, but rapidly moves west. As a young newspaperman in the Chicago of the 1970s and 1980s, Axelrod reported on the dissolution of the last of the big city political machines, along with the emergence of a black, independent movement that made Obama's ascent possible. Seeing the golden age of Chicago journalism collapse, Axelrod switched careers to become a political strategist, working for pathbreakers like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and morally conflicted characters like John Edwards. For better and worse, Axelrod helped to redefine the techniques by which modern political campaigns are run.
The heart of Believer is devoted to Axelrod's 20-year friendship with Obama, a warm partnership that inspired both men even as it propelled each to great heights. As senior adviser to the president, Axelrod served during one of the most challenging periods in national history and worked at Obama's side as he battled an economic disaster, navigated America through two wars, and fought to reform health care, the financial sector, and our grid-locked political institutions.
©2015 David Axelrod (P)2015 Penguin Audio
I especially hearing from David directly. What a brilliant man. I highly recommended to anyone. Sure wish some of the staunch Republicans would take the time to read it. Their biases have caused our nation to head backwards. This president will go down in history as one of the greatest. Mark my words'n.
I'm just a dumb troglodyte who like reading. Me feel good after I read book.
Believer is pseudo autobiography of David Axelrod with a specialized emphasis on his experiences as Senior Advisor to President Obama. The book is best described as a re-telling of the Obama Senatorial and Presidential elections from the guy who designed and implemented the strategy. The story is entertaining and reminds an educated reader about how Obama basically came out of no-where to become President within 5 years of any public notoriety. Believer does suffer from two major faults: 1) Axelrod does not provide the informed reader any new or revealing information. If you are an avid reader of current events, Believer will read like cliff notes. 2) Axelrod paints a picture of President Obama as a near deity. According to Axelrod the three worst you can say about the President is he smokes, uses profanity, and occasionally refuses to listen his advisors. Don’t think me an Obama hater! I twice voted for him and consider him one of the most consequential President’s since LBJ. But my experiences indicate that no one is so perfect.
Overall, if you love the President and would like to relive the enthusiasm and excitement of the Obama elections, Believer is your book.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I usually love political memoirs, but this one did not resonate with me. The writing is quite conversational, not deeply personal, not deeply and wonky, and not very compelling. The first half of the book is pretty slow moving, the second half (the Obama years) is mildly more interesting, yet it did not go very deep into the nitty-gritty of campaigning. This is definitely not a tell-all or getting-even memoir. It is also not an introspective or self-critical look back. There are a bunch of not very interesting stories, regularly but mildly referring to the corruption of Chicago politics, but giving very few details. Axelrod is pretty nice to everybody from Hillary and Biden to out-and-out criminals. Her is really, really, nice to Obama.
There were a few stories that I found pretty interesting:
The idea that the greatest of presidents (Abe, FDR, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, etc.) campaigned throughout their presidencies (which Obama did not do very well.)
The idea that a president always becomes less powerful over time, which influenced Obama to fight for health care reform early, while the economy was still in crisis.
The story of Obama’s problematic debate prep for the first debate of the second campaign.
Obama’s children’s reactions to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
I was disheartened by Axelrod’s (and Obama’s) disingenuous position on earmarks. Obama and Axelrod both say they are against earmark, but earmarks are just such an effective way to get money for one’s district or congressional support they just had to use them. Obama, in his short three years in the senate requested about a billion in earmarks, then he said he stopped requesting earmarks (after privately deciding to run for president). Obama promised to “go after earmarks line by line”. I had presumed he meant he would cut earmarks, not sign them into law.
The author’s narration is good, without being great. It is very clear, but (along with the writing) lacks intensity and strong emotion.
Overall this book was barely worth the time.
I would absolutely recommend this book to a friend and have been raving about Believer since I finished listening to it a few weeks ago.
I was moved by David Axelrod's honesty in describing how at times he wasn't a good husband or father because he had become so consumed by his career. I found his sharing of his personal life to be both endearing and heartfelt.
When David Axelrod described being a 5 year old boy and hearing JFK speak at his housing project in NYC.
I felt like a was a fly on the wall inside the White House when Obama was president. And as a someone who has had trouble understanding why President Obama had such a hard time passing any legislation, reading this book, gave me new insights into the problems he had working with Congress.
David Axelrod's Believer, is a great history book as well as a fascinating story of a man who wanted to make a difference in the governing of our country and succeeded.
The audiobook of Believer is well-performed by author David Axelrod. The highlights for me came in the 2nd half, as he presented illustrations of how Barack Obama thinks and acts as President. My bias before taking up this book was that Obama had restored the presidency to an office worthy of respect, and that history will judge him to have been one of our top 10 presidents. Axelrod is not consistently fawning, and in the epilogue sums up how Obama's strengths and weaknesses result from the same character traits. Axelrod thinks and writes clearly. His performance is one of the least obtrusive examples in my extensive exposure to audiobooks. My one criticism of Axelrod is that he almost always seems to smell a skunk before the rest of the world, e.g., Carol Mosely Braun, Rod Blagojevich. Perhaps Ax really is that perceptive.In summary, a very well-balanced and valuable memoir.
Parts of this book were interesting. I really enjoyed learning about Axe's rise through politics, and the ups and downs of the campaigns. However, he lacks the self-awareness to make this a good memoir. He seems to be unconscious of the amount of spin he put on everything. Axelrod is a campaigner and has built his career on spin, so it shouldn't be surprising. But at a certain point, it became incredibly frustrating to feel that the entire book was just one long campaign ad for Obama. It doesn't feel at all like a memoir, it feels like a retroactive ad (written for, let's be honest, readers who have already been won over by Obama). He writes in sound bites. He mentions over and over "the cold political calculus" of Washington, without ever acknowledging that HE'S DOING IT TOO. I felt that there were several scenarios he presented throughout the book where he deliberately failed to tell the whole story in a fair and balanced way in order to elicit a specific reaction from the reader. That's the goal of an ad, but it's frankly kind of insulting to the intelligence of a listener when you try to do it in a memoir.
If you've read David plouffe's book, you probably can skip the before 2008 accounts. No new information there. But his stories about 2008-2010 in the whitehouse and 2012 are interesting. wished 2012 would've had more emphasis
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