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The Promise: President Obama, Year One Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 18, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

As both a political history and an in-depth biography, this book is an important first draft in assessing the Obama presidency. Many other writings will follow this one, but they will have a hard time matching the energy and reporting quality that the author brings to this work. It would be nice to say that Jonathan Alter is as effective a narrator as he is an author, but that's not the case. Alter's scratchy, hoarse voice is more of a distraction than an attribute. He reads his own words well, but that's all he does. There's little emotion in his voice, and he doesn't do justice to the charismatic man he's written about. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jonathan Alter is an analyst and contributing correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC. He is a former senior editor and columnist for Newsweek, where he worked for twenty-eight years, writing more than fifty cover stories. He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, and other publications. He is the author of The Promise: President Obama, Year One and The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, both New York Times bestsellers, and Between the Lines, a collection of his Newsweek columns.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (May 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439101191
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439101193
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #817,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marjorie on August 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a vivid description of the day-to-day operation of the Obama administration in the chaotic first year of his presidency. Overall, I think it was a fair assessment of both Obama's strengths and his weaknesses.

I'm surprised that some of the reviewers here think that Alter's book is overly biased in favor of Obama.

It's clear that the writer thinks highly of Obama personally -- he portrays him as highly intelligent and possessed of effective leadership skills. But Alter is also very clear-eyed about where Obama has gone wrong in the first year of his presidency.

Alter gives Obama credit for actions early in the presidency (the bank and automaker bail-outs) that were unpopular, but probably saved the recession from tipping over into a depression, and for the historic health care legislation. With health care, Obama delivered on something that presidents since FDR have tried and failed to do. Nobody thinks it is a perfect plan but it is something that can be built on.

But Alter faults Obama in other crucial areas -- particularly jobs and housing. Obama, as portrayed by Alter, errs in relying too heavily on one set of economists -- Geithner, Summers, and their acolytes -- while essentially ignoring contradictory views. Everything had to be funnelled through Summers. Obama, in Alter's analysis, thereby encloses himself in the "bubble" that he had said he was going to try to avoid.

Alter also faults Obama for failing to communicate effectively with the American people about what he was trying to do. Obama's cool, unemotional personality does not serve him well, in a situation which required the warmth and empathy that an FDR or a Clinton were able to convey.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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12 Comments 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I am an independent who voted for Obama in 2008 and don't regret it (although I am somewhat disappointed in his first year). However, in writing books about politicians, the political scientist in me believes it is crucial to remain objective and try to separate the spin from the reality. For whatever reason, all too often the journalists with the best access in political circles also tend to be the most biased or least analytical. Unfortunately, Jonathan Alter's The Promise: President Obama, Year One is no exception. This book is, to put it kindly, very sympathetic toward the administration.

What do I mean by "sympathetic"? I don't certainly mind if an author admires his subject or favors his policy choices. However, Alter seems determined to find no fault with Obama and dismiss all of his failures as the fault of others. In the introduction, Alter seems to blame Obama's first-year woes on the president's overconfidence in the - get this - the American people. Too often, voters are portrayed as dumb, Republicans as devious, and Obama's policy choices as all brilliant, if misunderstood. However, let's be honest - there are many people who have honest concerns about Obama's policies. I myself agree with some (foreign policy), but not others (healthcare). Sometimes, I got the sense Alter simply repeated spin from the administration. This sort of bias in The Promise: President Obama, Year One is simply unacceptable in real a history.

This type of "journalistic history" book is really built around a few revealing anecdotes, without much substance or depth.
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