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The Promise: President Obama, Year One

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,693 ratings  ·  139 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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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  2,693 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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May 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
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
Richard Harden
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
I know, I'm reading this a little late but I thought I'd wait until year 2–8 were released and then read the entire thing, obviously this never happened.

The Promise is one of the best "inside" political books I've ever read. Alter examines The Big issues that defined Obama's presidency and chronicles how he and his policy team dealt with each, he also discusses the political ramifications of these decisions. The issues highlighted are… The economy,healthcare, Iraq and Afghanistan, and gays in t
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.

Mar 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing

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
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Steve Van Slyke
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Based on some of the negative reviews on Amazon I was expecting something more biased in favor of Obama. But while it often portrays him in a favorable light, the author did not shy away from pointing out several failures of tactics and communications. If you're looking for a good summary of Obama's first year from a relatively neutral viewpoint, this is worth reading. If you're of the "I'd rather see him fail" contingent you won't like it because it fairly points out the many successes he's ach ...more
Jun 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: political junkies
Alter's reading of the audio was probably a slightly better choice in this case as he gets the nuance down, so it flows reasonably well. Much as I wanted to give it a fourth star, he doesn't quite make it - the book gets bogged down in policy and personalities a bit too often. Recommended for political junkies (and policy wonks), others would likely have a tough time getting through to the end. ...more
Mary Gail O'Dea
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've read a bunch of books about Obama, but I thought this one was by far the best. ...more
Julie Christiano
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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!
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
An even handed review of Obama's first year. Focuses mostly on bailouts and health care reform but highlights Obama's other accomplishments which his administration failed to advertise itself.

Puts a spotlight on chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, exploring his personality and his major efforts to accomplish healthcare reform.

Details, sometimes painfully, the thought and process behind major initiatives like the bailout and ACA. I appreciated his explanation of the thought process going into the bail
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has a great insight into the many obstacles faced by this particular President. It is a difficult job made all the more so by the partisanship in Washington, DC today. Honestly feel like this book is a must-read for anybody interested in politics. The first few chapters about Obama's reaction to the economic meltdown compared to everybody else (especially McCain) is good to read about. ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It was such a privilege to read first hand account of how the negotiations developed for the first Obama bail-out package for the 2008 recession. George W. Bush had just left office and even after a Bush bail-out, there was still a lot of hurt in America.

Read what our new president says and how he responds.

Well written.
Mar 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
An uneven look at Obama’s first year as President in 2009. Some nuances felt unique like the close comparison of Obama and Bill Clinton’s management styles. Others would just as well have been omitted. Solid read if you like the genre.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Garbage and complete lies.
Cahyo Purnomo
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book was one of three compulsory reading materials to be discussed in class. It covers mainly on Obama's first year in 2009 as the first black US President at a crucial time after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. He took office and took charge on how to prevent another Great Depression where 'Too Big Too Fail' issue was hotly debated.

His first year presidency also dealt with many complicated domestic issues such as healthcare, education and so on including US foreign policy. The latter deal
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Mark Valentine
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The power of Alter's narrative lies in the immediacy and transparency of its history. I'll explain: Because the events related still have that sense of 'mist on the glass,' it makes for very engaging reading. Alter states in his Introduction that Journalism is History's first draft; this book then is the second draft of the historical record. Its transparency also makes reading it extremely engaging. Alter has access to the White House and its players and it allows him to write about the backsto ...more
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Rafael Suleiman
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good examination of year one of the Obama presidency.
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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Jonathan Alter is an award-winning author, political analyst, documentary filmmaker, columnist, television producer and radio host. His new book, published in 2020, is "His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life." He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers: “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies”(2013), “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” (2010) and “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Da ...more

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