ON-Lion Letter
Is President Barack Obama the savior of liberalism -- or the last liberal president?  Charles R. Kesler's spirited analysis of Obama's political thought in his new book I Am the Change:  Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism shows that Obama represents either a new birth of liberalism -- or its demise.

Who is Obama?  Though many of his own supporters wonder if he really believes in anything, Kesler argues that these disappointed liberals don't appreciate the scope of Obama's ambition or the long-term stakes for which he is playing.

Conservatives also misunderstand Obama, according to this leading conservative scholar, educator, and journalist.  They dismiss him as a socialist, hopelessly out of touch with the American mainstream.  The fringe Right dwells on Obama's foreign upbringing, his missing birth certificate, Bill Ayers' supposed authorship of his books.  What mainstream and fringe have in common is a stubborn underestimation of the man and the political movement he embodies.

Kesler is a senior fellow of The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy in Claremont, Calif., which is supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.  He also edits the Claremont Review of Books and is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

His I Am the change reflects a sophisticated mix of philosophy, psychology, and history, and complemented by a scathing wit.  From Broadside Books, it tries to understand Obama as he understands himself, based largely on his own writings, speeches, and interviews.  Kesler, the rare conservative who takes Obama seriously as a political thinker, views him as a gifted and highly intelligent progressive who is attempting to become the greatest president in the history of modern liberalism.  Intent on reinvigorating the liberal faith, Obama nonetheless fails to understand its fatal contradictions -- a shortsightedness that may prove to be liberalism's undoing.

Will Obama save liberalism and become its fourth great incarnation, following Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson?  Or will he be derailed by his very successes?  These are the questions at the heart of Kesler's thoughtful and illuminating book.
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