The Promise by Jonathan Alter
President Obama, Year One

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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 first year in office has until now remained a mystery.

In The Promise: President Obama, Year One, 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.

What happened in 2009 inside the Oval Office? What worked and what failed? What is the president really like on the job and off-hours, using what his best friend called "a Rubik’s Cube in his brain"? These questions are answered here for the first time. We see how a surprisingly cunning Obama took effective charge in Washington several weeks before his election, made trillion-dollar decisions on the stimulus and budget before he was inaugurated, engineered colossally unpopular bailouts of the banking and auto sectors, and escalated a treacherous war not long after settling into office.

The Promise is a fast-paced and incisive narrative of a young risk-taking president carving his own path amid sky-high expectations and surging joblessness. Alter reveals that it was Obama alone—"feeling lucky"—who insisted on pushing major health care reform over the objections of his vice president and top advisors, including his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who admitted that "I begged him not to do this."

Alter takes the reader inside the room as Obama prevents a fistfight involving a congressman, coldly reprimands the military brass for insubordination, crashes the key meeting at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, and realizes that a Senate candidate’s gaffe about baseball in a Massachusetts special election will dash the big dream of his first year.

In Alter’s telling, the real Obama is an authentic, demanding, unsentimental, and sometimes overconfident leader. He adapted to the presidency with ease and put more "points on the board" than he is given credit for, but neglected to use his leverage over the banks and failed to connect well with an angry public. We see the famously calm president cursing leaks, playfully trash-talking his advisors, and joking about even the most taboo subjects, still intent on redeeming more of his promise as the problems mount.

This brilliant blend of journalism and history offers the freshest reporting and most acute perspective on the biggest story of our time. It will shape impressions of the Obama presidency and of the man himself for years to come.

About Jonathan Alter

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Jonathan Alter is a columnist for Bloomberg View and an analyst and contributing correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC. He is a former senior editor and columnist for Newsweek, where he worked twenty-eight years, writing more than fifty cover stories. He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, 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.
Published April 28, 2010 by Simon & Schuster. 496 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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At countless points during its life, health-care reform seemed dead in the water, but it was helped at the last moment by an incredibly callous move on the part of a California Blue Cross enterprise, which “announced a 39 percent rate hike in the middle of the debate.” Re-energized, Obama spent m...

Apr 15 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

The New York Times

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Brains, talent and luck, Mr. Alter observes, had led to easy success (in becoming editor of The Harvard Law Review and later winning a Senate seat and the presidency with remarkable speed), and that success fueled Mr. Obama’s confidence: confidence, in Mr. Alter’s telling, that can occasionally ...

May 12 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

The New York Times

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This appraisal of Barack Obama’s presidency by a Newsweek columnist is mercifully free of the sensationalistic tone of recent campaign books.

May 28 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

Publishers Weekly

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Alter's sharply observed narrative follows Obama and his dedicated staff through a difficult, turbulent, and mostly successful first year in office.

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The Economist

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ON SUNDAY General David Petraeus kicked off a media campaign to persuade American policymakers that (a) progress is being made in Afghanistan but (b) it may not be possible to live up to the promise he made to Barack Obama in November last year to start withdrawing troops by July of next year*.

Aug 16 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

Los Angeles Times

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Barack Obama's decision to open the White House to Jonathan Alter meets all three criteria, and in "The Promise: President Obama, Year One," the longtime Newsweek columnist has produced a deeply reported, soberly appraised account of the president's tumultuous first months in office through passa...

May 19 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

The Washington Post

And Alter's understandably heavy reliance on unnamed sources and interviews with Obama and his close friends and White House aides means that his book lacks the perspective of Obama's most sophisticated first-year critics.

May 16 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

Christian Science Monitor

As someone who admires Barack Obama and worked for a year on his presidential campaign, I find it hard to understand the depth of the anger he has inspired on the political right.

May 25 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

Huffington Post

In "Newsweek" editor Jonathan Alter's upcoming book The Promise, Alter claims that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni kept a senior head of state waiting while they had sex, the Daily Mail UK reports.

May 10 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

Newsweek magazine columnist Jonathan Alter has done a great service to readers who have not yet figured out who this “guy” (one of the president’s favorite words) Barack Obama is.

May 30 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

Bookmarks Magazine

Tim Rutten Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars "What’s clear from Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter’s exhaustively researched, nonpartisan and insightful account of Obama’s first year in office is that the president is no ideologue, but a pragmatist confident in his lawyer-like ability to ana...

May 17 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

My San Antonio

By now, Jonathan Alter writes in his wonderfully detailed and written, "The Promise: President Obama, Year One," Bush assumed that Obama would be the next President.

Jun 13 2010 | Read Full Review of The Promise: President Obama,...

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