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The Promise: President Obama, Year One

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,460 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Barack Obama's inauguration as president on January 20, 2009, inspired the world. But the great promise of "Change We Can Believe In" was immediately tested by the threat of another Great Depression, a worsening war in Afghanistan, and an entrenched and deeply partisan system of business as usual in Washington. Despite all the coverage, the backstory of Obama's historic fi ...more
Hardcover, 459 pages
Published May 18th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published May 11th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,782)
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Richard Harden
As a political scientist by training, I have become disgusted with the uninformed rhetoric clogging the airwaves, the internet and the minds of an increasingly more unthinking public. It disturbs me the way writers who should know better, as well as many more who should not and do not care that they do not, misuse terms like "liberal," "conservative," "[un:]constitutional," "progressive," and "moderate." It disturbs me to an even greater extent that the public blindly and uncritically absorbs in ...more
Oldroses
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 al
...more
Erickarlos Gutierrez
Alter gives a refreshingly insightful, and, at times sympathetic persepective of the Obama administration. The major themes of the book highlight Obama's modus operandus when it came to governance, policy, management, and leadership. It highlighted his suprising expertise at executive level management, and his equally surprising sub-par execution of all-things related to communication.

Alter provides a sharp contrast between the previous Presidents and our current President. This contrast include
...more
William
If you want a concise presentation of President Obama's failures and successes in his Administration's first 18 months, start this book at the Epilogue. In very few pages, you will have a roster of accomplishments that are in many places historic, all far-reaching, and most all completely unheard of by the average voter. This is the story of Obama's presidency so far: that his drive for measurable steps forward -- from the elimination of "middle-man" vendors for student loans that in turn helped ...more
Rick
May 31, 2010 Rick rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
Reading this right after Game Change was awesome! It's like Harry Potter! I hope they do a year two, and a year three, and maybe in year seven they can take down Voldemort, er, I mean Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes. After Game Change i liked Obama a little bit less but this turned me around and I am in awe of how much he got done in a year. Makes me feel lazy.
Karen
This is the book I would have written about President Obama if I could, so naturally, I'm captivated! Where was Mr. Alter when I was an island, needing a like-minded individual to chew on the issues during primary season? Excellent reporting and analysis.

Dan
This was an interesting read, though I think the book, as history, was sort of doomed from the start. Alter selected the perspective of admiration, rather than dispassion, from the start of the process--the book was then written with the scaffolding of admiration/sympathy as a starting point. And, to be honest, I don't think there was a way to write this type of book without a perspective. He did his research as the events he was writing about were happening. For what it's worth, the research is ...more
Irving Koppel

This very exhaustive and sometimes exhausting account of President
Obama's first year in office is well worth the read. If you're a political
junkie like me,you'll appreciate the meticulous accounts of all the
"sturm und drang" that our new president faced from the beginning.

Faced with an unprecedented array of problems left to him by his prede-
cessor, Obama had to move rapidly and decisively. Without any help from
the Republicans,Obama achieved the following in the first year and a
quarter:reg
...more
Ryan
Halfway through reading The Promise, which thoroughly documents Obama's first year as president, I checked Amazon to see how the book fared with other readers. Many adored the book, yet many criticized it for being too favorable toward Obama. Although I can't deny that Jonathan Alter is clearly a fan of Obama, this book had a few things going for it that kept any bias in check:

a) It would be hard to argue that this is from any perspective other than center-left. Particularly during the end as th
...more
Jennifer
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
...more
BooksAndTea
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 ...more
Mary Gail O'Dea
Almost finished with my campaign 2008/obama reading tour and this was an excellent addition to the trip. Jonathan Alter explores the first year of the Obama presidency form the inside. Because the economy still is sluggish, its easy to overlook how much he accomplished in one year. Excellent read.
Julie Christiano
Amazing what I did not know that makes me admire President Obama even more- could that even be possible???? Very well researched and written. As Lbball27 noted, I may be addicted to nonfiction!
Darin
I've never been a fan of instant history books or instant biographies, but my fascination with the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing of politics, and, I admit, my admiration for President Obama, caused me to read The Promise as soon as it was published.

Through first and second hand interviews with hundreds of subjects in and out of government, Jonathan Alter has assembled a compelling portrait of Mr. Obama's first "year" in office. Starting with his acceptance of the Democratic Party nomina
...more
Carolyn
I've read a bunch of books about Obama, but I thought this one was by far the best.
Josh McConnell
Though relatively easy to read in its syntax, The Promise: President Obama, Year One is most certainly a dense book. If you have no interest in politics and simply want to read more about Obama and his life, then I recommend staying far away from this one. Read Barack Obama's own books for those topics. Instead of an autobiography, The Promise dives right into its analysis of President Obama's first year in office without any extensive introduction. There is no story building nor history of the ...more
Holly Morrow
Caveat emptor: “The Promise” is not so much an appraisal of President Obama’s first year in office as a tribute. Maybe Alter (a Newsweek correspondent) will be to this Administration what Woodward was to the Bush Administration – the semi-official scribe. Even the criticisms in this book are of the variety that you use in a job interview when asked to describe your greatest weakness (“Sometimes I work too hard”) – where you’re trying to find something that objectively complies with the mandate f ...more
Jim
Jonathan Alter details the actions taken by the Obama administration through the year 2009. It is a detailed but readable account, in the style of solid, long-form journalism. Alter does a good job of explaining the dynamics and personalities that shaped decisions and politics surrounding the financial and auto bailouts, the stimulus, and, most centrally, the push to pass healthcare reform.

Sometimes, the minutiae of policy-making can be a bit of a slog. What is more interesting, perhaps, are acc
...more
Steve
One of those books that is so well written and interesting that your able to read quickly despite it being over 400 pages. The book is an insider view of Obama's first year in office, which provides a detailed look at the state of the country after Bush and company ran things for eight years. Needless to say, things were much worse than team Obama imagined. The author is lightly critical of the President, but you are able to get a real sense of how Obama's mind works and his vision for the count ...more
Mary
I'm usually skeptical of the value of current events books written on such a short timetable, but Alter's account is deeply reported and compellingly written. The author is unquestionably sympathetic to Obama but generally even-handed in his approach (though defending Obama's preference for "extraordinarily smart men and women" by slamming the Bush White House for its "legions of second-raters" is a cheap shot). My favorite behind-the-scenes revelation was that Rupert Murdoch planned to endorse ...more
Sam
The premise:
1) Alter writes a book about the run-up to FDR's election and his historic first one-hundred days.
2) Barack Obama and his staff blatantly use Alter's FDR book as a map of how to begin their administration.
3) Alter works closely with Obama's staff to document the first year of Obama's administration in order to ultimately release a book about the run-up to Barack Obama's election and his historic first year.

All in all, I'd say it's a pretty neat trick. And, as it happens, it's a prett
...more
Christina
Reading this just after the GOP sweep in the midterms has left a bitter taste in my mouth. So much opportunity lost! Yet, Alter in many ways explains why, even though the book was written before the election. It is amazing how an administration can do so much and receive credit for so little. Yes, a lot of it is superficial messaging. Yes, many of us who are political junkies were dying for a man like Obama to speak to us like adults after 8 years of 'Git 'er done!' But once elected, the White H ...more
Amanda
I had to read this book for class and I was kind of biased against it from the beginning. Why would you write a book about the first year of a presidency and publish it immediately after? Do you want history to make you look dumb? My other fear was that no one could write this book without a lot of bias and that was borne out. Clearly he loves Obama. Sure, he shows him making mistakes but nothing that really damages him. Alter clearly loves Obama. Which is fine, I guess, but I got really tired o ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
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 ...more
JoAnn
This is a remarkably interesting, insightful, and informative book that focuses on the first 16 months of the Obama presidency. I learned so much about current issues and policy. It was written by a Newsweek columnist with unique access to the Obama administration and it's important policymakers. My biggest issue with this book was that there was not enough background information and explanation; it assumed a prior knowledge of politics, policy, issues, and people, which I didn't have, and goes ...more
Eric
Aug 09, 2014 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Eric by: Tommy Alter
First of all, I'd like to disclose that the primary reason I read this book was because the author is the father of my roommate from freshman year. Putting aside bias, however, I can still say I found it to be a good book. It provided some interesting insights into how the Obama administration handled its first year in office. The health care narrative at the end there didn't really fit into Alter's "first year" structure, but that's more the fault of how things turned out than any fault of the ...more
Leendert
the man described by alter in his history is a slightly different man than in the pages of remnick's biography. the two combined paints a picture of an extraordinary man - obama.

what alter's book does, in addition to providing an insider's scoop on political machinations, is to highlight how sparse and anemic reporting and journalism on american politics are nowadays. a great deal has been accomplished in 2009 and the first months of 2010 but you would never know it from watching cable news and
...more
Joyce
Terrific book! I should probably say up front that I'm an Obama fan, so I really don't know how others would perceive it. Alter's writing is easy to read and he obviously has a great number of sources - a quarter-century of Newsweek employment has been put to good use.

I think that I'm reasonably informed about teh workings of government, but there was much to learn about the process of the executive branch and how it interacts, or doesn't, with other branches and agencies.

Alter intends this book
...more
Eric
I'm really enjoying this as I am something of a presidential history buff. My only criticism so far is that I think the author is not as unbiased as I think he believes, but it is not significantly limiting my enjoyment of the book.

UPDATE-- Now that I've finished, I can say my initial criticism is still valid and my only real complaint. Regardless of the President's political philosophy, I found I do like the way he operates as an executive and was surprised at how aloof he can be with members o
...more
Meepspeeps
This book gives remarkable insight into the early decision-making processes of the Obama administration. Two particularly well-documented examples are Obamacare and the "surge" in Afghanistan. I've often said "Obama has no leadership experience," but the author makes a strong case for his leadership capabilities and how he exercised them early in his first term. I was annoyed a few times, not just by typos, but by broad statements such as "no one has read the Patient Protection and Affordable Ca ...more
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Jonathan Alter is an American columnist and senior editor for Newsweek magazine, where he has worked since 1983. Alter is a Chicago, Illinois native and resident of Montclair, New Jersey. He is a contributing correspondent to NBC News, where since 1996 he has appeared on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC. When the shows were on the air, he could often be heard on Imus in the Morning and The Al Franken Show on ...more
More about Jonathan Alter...
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