From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Author and Newsweek editor Alter (The Defining Moment: FDR'S Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope) chronicles Obama's first year (plus) as U.S. President, from pre-inauguration planning through the passage of health care reform in March, 2010, in this engaging, fast-moving contemporary history. Exploring Obama's "temperament, his approach to decision making, and his analysis of his ambitious first year," as well as the overarching questions of "What happened?" and "How well did he do?", Alter will remind readers why they voted as they did, and why Obama was ultimately victorious. Tasked with "the worst set of problems of any incoming president since Roosevelt in 1933," Obama served up a range of big-ticket solutions that included "the huge and underappreciated stimulus package, the auto bailouts, bank rescue and regulation... sending sixty-one thousand more troops to Afghanistan, and a health care bill," each of which Alter addresses in depth. Alter finds that, despite the denial of right-wingers, Obama performed admirably in the first year, with progress on 50 percent of his campaign promises (and completion of 18 percent). Alter's prose is swift and subtly inspiring; the "Yes, we can!" motto rarely appears but provides an undercurrent for his record of accomplishment. Readers interested in political process and the reality of progressive politics will enjoy this well-considered take on the current administration, a "second draft" of history from a dedicated journalist who wisely anticipates "dozens more versions to come."
Drawing on insider access and more than 200 interviews with key players, Washington veteran Jonathan Alter examines the nascent Obama presidency with a journalist's eye for the telling detail and a historian's perspective. Despite the transparency that the office of president demands (for the most part), Obama remains enigmatic--ebullient, confident, and optimistic; aloof, demanding, and maybe a bit out of touch. Alter, whose obvious admiration for Obama never impedes his journalistic instincts (he candidly discusses Obama's missteps with Wall Street, for example), captures those contradictions well. Presidential chroniclers won't have the advantage of hindsight for some time, but "when it comes ... to the first draft of history, The Promise
is more polished--and far more thoughtful--than most" (Los Angeles Times