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The Promise: President Obama, Year One by…

The Promise: President Obama, Year One

by Jonathan Alter

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Not a very good book Author Jonathan Alter takes a look back at the 1st year or so of President Obama's first term in office, from the election to the passage of health care reform (plus a look at 2010). What had the potential to be a fantastic overview of the first year turned out to be mostly dull. It is also clear the journalist is quite biased in favor of the Obama administration. Of which there's nothing wrong with that, since we are all human, but it made me wonder how much of this was the author merely wiping away true mistakes and missteps by the administration.
Although Alter does a good job in showing the human side of the President, the book meanders after a while from a chronological retelling to more of one that is thematic. I don't mind either format, but it was a little annoying to figure out exactly where were were in the timeline and I felt the author ran out of gas between the initial few months until the passage of healthcare reform.
As a book for comparison it is always interesting to see how different stories, people, events, etc. are viewed by different writers, people they interviewed, etc. However I felt there wasn't much that was new here (perhaps it was new at the time of the book's publication) and I didn't feel I really got much insight on the people in the book.
Perhaps it's a reflection of my own personal biases--I have more experience with the campaign side of it that the policy. But it was still quite a tedious read that was tough to get through. For historians it might be of interest but I'd take it with some salt and suggest reading other resources. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
Insightful and informative look inside the first year of the Obama administrative. Best part was the look inside Obama's personality through how he deals with those in his inner circle to how he treats the American people. Extensive coverage of the economy, foreign policy and the health care bill. It took a while to read but was worth it!

Proud to have finished this a few hours before Father's Day because it was my father who introduced me to American politics (Aaron Sorkin did have a hand in it as well but Dad explained all the political insides that I didn't get). Happy Father's Day, Dad! ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
Excellent analysis of Obama's first year. The chapter treating his relationship with the military is especially well handled. ( )
  carterchristian1 | Oct 25, 2011 |
Very good book. Covers the Obama from the Sept 2008 to roughly March 2009.
Provides a nice inside view of Obama and his advisors. Easy read. ( )
  sangahn | Feb 25, 2011 |
Barack Obama is not a saint. What a relief. "The Promise: President Obama, Year One", written by Jonathan Alter, a "Newsweek" reporter, is a refreshing change from the worshipful treatment of President Obama in "Game Change". Mr. Alter provides an even-handed treatment of the first year of the Obama presidency. He shows us a president who is all too human, making mistakes in both personnel and policies but mostly getting it right.

The reader is provided with thorough background information on all of the major players in President Obama’s administration. I was especially fascinated by the description of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s agonizing decision whether to take the job as Chief of Staff or remain in the House, eventually succeeding Nancy Pelosi to become the first Jewish Speaker of the House. First Jewish Speaker? I had no idea that anyone thought that way in the 21st century. I thought that we had put silly religious issues behind us. I’m old enough to remember when (Catholic) JFK was running for the presidency and voters (including my Goldwater Republican parents) were terrified that if he were elected, the Pope would be running the country. As history reminds us, JFK was elected and governed the country without the Pope.

First Lady Michelle Obama is treated respectfully. I was surprised to learn that despite her husband never having been subject to rumors of infidelity, she is described as “a tiger when it came to Barack and other women”, the example of Halle Berry’s enthusiasm in campaigning for Obama prompting the future First Lady to forbid her husband to appear with her.

Mr. Alter’s previous book, "The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope", dealt with FDR and the New Deal. Not surprisingly, he frequently draws parallels between President Obama’s first year in office and FDR’s first year in office. Both entered office faced with a collapsing economy. Both were forced to clean up the messes left by the previous administrations. And both passed landmark legislation in their first year, Social Security by FDR and health care reform by Obama.

It’s often difficult to end a book of this length and breadth, especially with the protagonist still early in his administration and still likely to continue making history, but I found the ending to this book very satisfying. The long, drawn-out battle for health care reform takes up most of the book, but in the end the reader is reminded of President Obama’s other first year accomplishments such as banning pay discrimination against women (always close to my heart), health insurance for millions of children, tightened rules governing credit cards and the crackdown on predatory lending, achievements that have become lost in the noise and confusion of the battle over health care, but which are huge victories in their own right. ( )
1 vote OldRoses | Jun 9, 2010 |
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Jonathan Alter, one of the country's most respected journalists and historians, uses his unique access to the White House to produce the first inside look at Obama's difficult debut. In Alter's telling, the real Obama is an authentic, demanding, unsentimental, and sometimes overconfident leader.… (more)

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