The Promise: President Obama, Year One

The Promise: President Obama, Year One

by Jonathan Alter


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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 bounces back after a disastrous Massachusetts election to redeem a promise that had eluded presidents since FDR.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439101209
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 01/11/2011
Pages: 475
Sales rank: 200,460
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Alter is an award-winning historian, columnist and documentary filmmaker. An MSNBC political analyst and former senior editor at Newsweek, he is the author of three New York Times bestsellers: The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies; The Promise: President Obama, Year One; and The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Preface xv

Prologue 1

1 Obama Takes Charge 3

2 White House-in-Waiting 15

3 Grant Park 34

4 The Cabinet Maker 45

5 Picking Hillary 67

6 Instant President 77

7 Historic Inauguration 100

8 Sea Legs 110

9 Zen Temperament 138

10 Rahmbo 159

11 The Shovel Brigade 173

12 Larry and Tim 189

13 The Un-Bubba 209

14 Global Reset 224

15 Tyrannosaurus Rx 244

16 Professor-in-Chief 267

17 Off-hours 291

18 The Skinny Guy and the Fat Cats 309

19 Modus Obama 325

20 "Don't Blow It!" 347

21 Chaos-istan 363

22 The Perfect and the Good 395

23 Achievements 422

Epilogue: 2010 435

Acknowledgments 452

Note on Sources 455

Notes 457

Index 463

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