I let myself sound a bit exasperated at one main point during the discussion. In the book, Hayward says that President Obama can be fairly called the nation's first "affirmative action president." He suggests that Obama had a thin resume, and benefited from the nation's desire to elect a black man to the country's highest office.
Today, at Power Line, Steve affirms that stance by quoting Jim Geraghty at National Review:
It ties to a theory I’ve had for a while, that most apolitical voters desperately want to avoid concluding that the first African-American president of the United States is a failure, on par with a second term for Jimmy Carter. As a result, they will give Obama until the very last minute to demonstrate an ability to get the job done, to demonstrate that he can generate tangible improvements in their lives. But, if around October 2012, people don’t see tangible improvements in their lives, well, the bottom may fall out of his numbers. He’ll still have his loyal base, but the vast majority of independents will decide he just can’t get the job done.There's an interesting discussion to be had about the role of Obama's race in his political fortune. But labeling him an "affirmative action president" is loaded terminology, suggesting that Obama's accomplishment in being elected is somehow tainted. Steve, I suspect, knows that. Interestingly, it doesn't just insult the president—it also insults the voters, who are presumably so fuzzy-headed with political correctness that they'll ride a sinking ship until it's too late. Obama's approval numbers over the last two years, I think, indicate otherwise.
In any case, the underlying conceit here is that Obama only benefits politically from his race. That's probably not the case: One study suggested the president lost as much as 5 percent of the 2008 vote based purely on his race. Certainly, the desperate attempts by Breitbart-style conservatives to link the president to the most obnoxious sorts of black nationalism—despite no real hint of such leanings in the president's actual governing record—suggest they're aware of the dynamic.
Like lots of black men, Obama had to overcome a racial headwind to achieve what he has, politically. (We have, thankfully, arrived at a point in our nation's history where that headwind was not determinative.) And like lots of black men, there are a few whites who tend to attribute those accomplishments to coddling and bleeding hearts rather than smarts and hard work. But it's a strange idea that a black man can only win politically, and almost never lose, because of his race. We haven't come that far, yet.