The Washington Post Subscription
The first time I met Barack Obama, he struck me as different from any other politician I had ever met. He was smart, well-read, affable and energetic, but that isn’t what made him stand out. It was the way he asked questions. Most politicians ask a question to answer it themselves. After giving you a brief opportunity to respond, they jump in, “Well, here’s what I think . . .,” and proceed to deliver some packaged piece of wisdom they have doubtless recited dozens of times. But Obama would ask a question to which he actually wanted an answer. He would listen and ask another question. He genuinely wanted to understand how someone else might view an issue.
That unusual politician comes through clearly in his new book, “A Promised Land.” It is well written, certainly the best-written presidential memoir I have read. Obama has an easy and stylish way with words. Describing walking through the West Colonnade of the White House, he says, “it was where each morning I felt the first slap of winter wind or pulse of summer heat.” Describing a helicopter ride, he writes, “I gazed out at the rolling Maryland landscape and the tidy neighborhoods below, and then the Potomac, glistening beneath the fading sun.”