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The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House
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The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  9,857 ratings  ·  982 reviews
For nearly 10 years, Ben Rhodes saw almost everything that happened at the center of the Obama Administration--first as a speechwriter, then as Deputy National Security Advisor, and finally as a multi-purpose aide and close collaborator, starting every morning with Barack Obama in the Presidential Daily Briefing. Now, he tells the full story of his partnership--and, ultima ...more
Hardcover, 450 pages
Published June 12th 2018 by Random House (first published June 5th 2018)
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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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Average rating 4.32  · 
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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  ·  review of another edition
“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
...more
Mehrsa
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Jen
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
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
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
...more
Mike Musings Book Reviews
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: life philosophy
Shelves: life
A historical memoir from an inside true believer of the Obama White House years. Starting with the initial connection with Obama in 2007 and covering world events such as the war in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, Arab Spring, the Middle East, Osama Bin Laden, Ghaddafi, and visit with world leaders, until the finale in 2016. With his speech writing and international politics background comes an enthusiastic recollection of these various international issues and the Obama Presidency. Clearly written ...more
Aaron Million
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Ben Rhodes can really write. This should come as no surprise since he holds a Masters degree in fiction writing and was one of Barack Obama's principal speechwriters for all eight years of his presidency, as well as being Deputy National Security Advisor. Rhodes knows how to tell a story, one of the Obama presidency as seen through his eyes. His writing is crisp, does not get bogged down in intricate foreign policy details, and most importantly, remains human. So many political memoirs read like ...more
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
...more
Radiantflux
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, usa
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
...more
Mike
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
...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...
...more
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
Patricia
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Mary Ann
I'll admit this was something I sort of slogged through at times. In part, I was distracted by two of my passions, FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon, as well as a disturbing week of DJT's European and Russian visits. In addition, although the book is quite well-written, not a great deal of it is new ground. That's okay. Since people seldom write letters or keep journals these days, contemporary accounts by individuals are not only interesting but may be valuable resources to future historians and off ...more
Chris Casey
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Daniel Simmons
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Anna Juline
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book helped put things in perspective for me - I highly recommend it to anyone who is continually heartbroken by Trump’s presidency.
Stephen
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Alejandro Bhattacharjee
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I throughly enjoyed Ben Rhodes journey from on the campaign trail to flying for the last time on Air Force One with the Obama family. It's astonishing to look back in time when the America we knew was full of hope and optimism for the future. The author did a great job giving the reader a sense of the decision-making process during some of the most critical moments of Obama's Presidency. The election of Trump clearly was shock to the world and the delayed reaction to Russian interference was app ...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
ShirleyS
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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