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Obama:  Keeping Him Accountable
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Tavis Smiley
Accountable:  Making America as Good as its Promise (NY:  Atria Books, 2009, 391p.)

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Tavis Smiley has performed an admirable service for us with this book.  He has given us a mechanism with which to evaluate in practical terms the performance of President Obama's administration.  The thrust of the book is how the voters can keep the Obama administration accountable for what needs to be done.

We need to do this every time we elect a new public officer.  The book's subtitle puts into perspective the practical goal he has in mind:  "Making America as Good as Its Promise."  Smiley takes a practical approach to enable the reader to make it happen.  He provides a performance-oriented procedure by which to evaluate the new administration, and indeed every level of government.

Smiley has taken topic by topic the promises of the Obama campaign, and dealt with them in detail to analyze the problem and the possibilities for solving it.  He has established objective expectations for this administration, based on the lists of promises on record in position papers, websites and election campaign speeches.

Though he references every comment and formal proposal he can garner from various Obama sources, Smiley does not leave it there.  He elucidates the problems by expanding on each concern from community perspectives, and discussion of these problems in other venues or domains that provide suggestions for improvement of our society.  Thus this becomes a comprehensive planning manual for community action for the whole nation at every level.

He has then laid out checklists for each category and each possibility proposed by the Obama campaign.  The checklists are laid out not only for the President himself, but Smiley has made a checklist for implementation for each level of government and community.

He provides a practical checklist under these categories:  "Our President," Our US "Congressmen and Congresswomen" (under this category, it appears he means to include both representatives and senators), "Our Governor and State Legislatures" and "Our Community Leaders and Faith-Based Organizations.  He takes it even further however, to make it all inclusive with his last category:  "You and I."

Critical Areas
The main body of the book fulfills the scenario just described, taken topic by topic on the following categories: Health Care and Well-Being; Education; Unequal Justice; The Economy; The Environment, Energy and our Aging Infrastructure and Democracy.

The last section of the book, about a third of the whole text, is specifically for our evaluation of President Obama on the specific proposals he himself has made on these same areas.

Each topic is summarized by Smiley, usually under the heading of a question framing the approach to the problem, then specific proposals, areas of stated concern or areas to be addressed in practical measures are listed, followed by an accountability checklist we can use to evaluate how well and at what point Obama and his administration fulfill this.

For example, in the latter third of the book, the section on energy starts with a statement of priority by Obama:  "I consider energy to be one of the three most important issues that we're facing domestically."

Then Smiley gives this topic the heading:  "Sacrifice and Service," with the question:
"Will President Obama call upon ordinary Americans to help create a better, greener America?"

Then areas of concern include specific statements by the candidate on what will be done, under the headings: Encourage Mass Transit; Create Environmental Service Corps; Link Vets with Green Jobs; Sacrifice – It's a Good Thing; Invest in Green Products: $1 billion; and Fund Green Technologies.

An Evaluation Tool
Smiley has presented each category in this same practical, clear format with easy evaluation of the president's performance.

This is a book you should have and use throughout this presidency, to make our government – at every level – accountable.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Hilarity Sounds Alarm for America
[review] Too Honest for the White House

See this book with my review on Amazon.com.
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Book received as Publisher's Advance Reading Copy 11 March 2009
Read 19-20 March 2009
Review written and posted on Amazon 24 April 2009
This version written and posted on OJTR 25 April 2009
Last edited 4 July 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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