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The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  8,190 ratings  ·  828 reviews
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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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Bodley Head
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Fussnik It's the real West Wing! Very pleasurable to have a non fiction account. You don't have to agree with them to enjoy it. Did you want to know if Rahm E…moreIt's the real West Wing! Very pleasurable to have a non fiction account. You don't have to agree with them to enjoy it. Did you want to know if Rahm Emanual really cursed every minute? if Obama had a athletic trainer? what does Obama do on Air Force One when it's a long flight?(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
”Most people told me it would pass, but that wasn’t true. My involvement with one of the things I was proudest of, the Iran deal, was now permanently tainted. A label would forever be attached to me: ‘Ben Rhodes, who boasted of creating an echo chamber to sell the Iran deal…’ The right-wing critics now had fresh meat for the balance of the Obama years and beyond. All the dots in their drawing of me had been connected--fiction writer, leaker, liar, Benghazi, Iran deal. People tell you those thing ...more
Malia
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“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
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Mehrsa
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Matt
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Having a keen interest in most things political, I was drawn to this workplace memoir by Ben Rhodes, one of the senior staffers in the Obama White House. Working in the policy and speechwriting areas, Rhodes offers some insight into the work done over the eight years President Obama served as Commander in Chief, as well as offering some bookend comments about the Administrations on either side of those two terms in office. Rhodes had long be a political junkie and used some of his early skills a ...more
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
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 ...more
Mal Warwick
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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 ...more
Jean
The memoirs of Obama staffers are starting to come out now. I enjoy reading these political insider memoirs. I am aware they are biased to their own beliefs. I attempt to stay neutral and read these memoirs from both sides of the political divide. By doing this I hope to obtain a better understanding of the events.

This one is by Ben Rhodes who was Obama’s speechwriter and national security staffer. The book provides a look inside the Obama years. He states he is telling the story “of the journey
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Truman32
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
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Jen
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rhodes was primarily a communications professional in the Obama White House, so it's not surprising at all that he's a great writer. He made some really complicated foreign policy situations very accessible and as a career bureaucrat myself, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the White House runs kind of like any other agency that I've ever worked for, only on a much larger scale, must faster, with much higher stakes.

Two things that really stood out for me reading Rhodes' memoir. The first
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Susan
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, memoir
As I was finishing Ben Rhodes memoir of his years with President Obama's first campaign and eight years in the White House, tears came to my eyes for what we have lost. Rhodes was hired by the campaign for his foreign policy experience since he had worked for former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a DC think tank. He takes us through the arc of his service from the very first time he helped with debate prep during the campaign to th ...more
Pedro Pinheiro
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and fluid read. The book covers the entire Obama's candidature and terms in office, dwelling especially on foreign policy. The narrative is coloured with personal stories and the author evolution on the job.
Highly recommended for people that might be critical of Obama's foreign interventions (or lack thereof). As they say, everything is more complicated than it seems and this book shows that with excellent writing and storytelling.
Kate Elizabeth
This memoir is thoughtful and detailed and beautifully written, so my "meh" reaction to it is hard to explain. Part of it may be political fatigue - living in DC in 2018 will do this to you - and part of it may be that I don't adore foreign policy and this is the story of the Obama presidency told by a former senior foreign policy advisor, Ben Rhodes.

Rhodes is a polarizing figure, in that he was a key player in the Iran nuclear deal and in reestablishing relations with Cuba, both actions that di
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Lynn
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up.

This is a fascinating memoir written by a member of President Obama’s key staff. Ben Rhodes started out as a senior speech writer on Obama’s 2008 campaign and eventually became deputy national security advisor, overseeing the administration’s national security communications, speechwriting, public diplomacy and global engagement programming. He offers an insider’s view of what happened in those areas during the Obama administration. I did not realize when I started this book
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Jack
This book suffered from high expectations. I've seen Ben Rhodes' name pop up in various news articles through the years but he remained an undifferentiated staffer in my mind until I watched The Final Year. After this movie I read up on his background, and became enamored with the idea of the highly-competent Obama aide with a writerly background and a close connection with the president. My expectations were too inflated, I hoped for a political memoir that would be more novelesque in its eloqu ...more
Owlseyes
Really, in what emotional stage is he now?
He said "he" would never win the election, rather "she" would win. It turns out "he" won on the 8th of November 2016. So, he lost, so did "she".
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/05/30...
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Radiantflux
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, audiobook
52nd book for 2019.

This book is at best a useful refresher for the foreign policy environment surrounding the Obama Whitehouse over eight years, but that's about it. It's too superficial and too enamored by Obama to offer critical insights to decisions made over his eight years presidency. Obama himself remains throughout a cypher.

The writing itself is pretty boring—surprising from someone who acted as one of the main speechwriters for Obama—but does get better in the latter half of the book whe
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Christopher
This was an amazing read! Simply put, this is one of the best memoirs to come out of the Obama White House thus far and, perhaps, one of the best political memoirs I have ever read. Though I paced myself throughout this entire book, there were many points where I simply did not want to put this book down as Mr. Rhodes puts you into the room on some of the biggest moments in the Obama administration. The opening to Cuba, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Arab Spring, Mr. Rhodes was both an observer of a ...more
Mike
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir by Ben Rhodes who was a speechwriter a national security advisor to President Obama for eight years. This book is basically a history of the foreign policy and international relations of the Obama administration. There is very little time spent looking at domestic issues outside of how international issues impact the administration politically.

Rhodes writes very well (he has an MFA so that makes sense) and does a great job of mixing his personal story with the story
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Patricia
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about foreign policy by reading this insider's memoir of the author's years in the Obama White House. I also appreciated his behind-the-scenes look at his life as a high level staffer. In the end, I most appreciated this book for the hope it gave me that there are many good people who are trying to make the world a better place. Highly recommended.
Chris Casey
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A tremendously enjoyable and insightful read, which is also, too soon, sadly nostalgic for 'The America As It Was', led by a smart, thoughtful, articulate, and empathetic human being in President Obama. Thank you @brhodes for your service to him, and to all of us, and for the great job you did here sharing that experience.
Stephen
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and very personal account of what it was like inside the Obama White House - as good as you’ll get until Obama himself publishes his memoirs.

Must be absolutely soul destroying for them after all that work and stress which has visibly aged both the author and Obama, to see the Trump administration reversing much of what they had done on Iran, healthcare, climate change, etc
Zahreen
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Despite knowing the events in the memoir fairly well, I thought Rhodes still provided valuable insight into recent history and a picture into what a better, more thoughtful U.S. foreign policy could look like. There were mistakes made, but at least there were guiding principles that one could understand, instead of the dumpster fire we have now.
Summer Sharp
This was an interesting listen. Not as fascinating as others political books I've listened to. It was easy to walk away. That's usually a sign I'm not fascinated or entertained by a book. It was more into the weeds of foreign policy and events and thoughts going on whenajor policy changes were under way. I'm glad I listened to it though. I feel like I understand more of the subtle undercurrents involved in some of our key international relationships and have a greater appreciation for the months ...more
Harris N. Miller
Where’s the Beef?

Ben Rhodes, by all accounts, including his own, is a good guy. A true patriot who had the opportunity to spend eight years on Obama’s staff as both a speechwriter and a foreign policy advisor and operative. So I began this memoir with high expectations that I would obtain some new insights into Obama, including why he failed to trumpet his successes until it was too late for the American people to have time to process. But my hopes were dashed. The book is boring. Rhodes is so b
...more
Daniel Simmons
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This clear-eyed, beautifully written political bildungsroman left me feeling nostalgic for the foreign policy years of the Obama presidency, and for that administration’s continual striving toward remaking the world as it is into the world as it ought to be.
ShirleyS
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. Among them was that reading about Obama and his thinking was sooo soothing even if things didn’t always work out for him. At least he tried to do his best for the United States.
Anna
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book helped put things in perspective for me - I highly recommend it to anyone who is continually heartbroken by Trump’s presidency.
Jacob Williams
"History doesn't move in a straight line. It zigs and zags."

While I was too young to remember both the 2008 and 2012 elections, what I do remember was how Obama was WAY better than our current president. *cough cough*

Sorry about that. I've always been interested in reading about presidential tenures, and this coming from the head speechwriter is no different. It offers a very different view of Obama.

Ben had known Obama ever since the beginning of his campaign when he would write speeches here
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Jack
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I finished reading it and I'll write a detailed review when I get back my copy of the book. (I lent it to an acquaintance who needs it for a project). Not sure, but I just might knock the score down to two stars -- we'll see.
Joseph Stieb
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'll be upfront: I admire Obama deeply, and now I like Ben Rhodes too. You may be wondering how a guy with relatively little foreign policy experience became a close advisor to Obama. The main reason: he was willing to do all the crap. If Rhodes gets across one thing about life in the White House, it is that it is profoundly exhausting and emotionally draining. I would not take his job even if I got to advise the president. There just wasn't room for anything else in his life. I admire him just ...more
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From 2009 to 2017, Ben Rhodes served as deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama, overseeing the administration’s national security communications, speechwriting, public diplomacy, and global engagement programming. Prior to joining the Obama administration, from 2007 to 2008 Rhodes was a senior speechwriter and foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign. Before joining then–Se ...more

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