President Obama, Year One,
by Jonathan Alter
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by Massscorecard.org:
What is "The Promise" to which the author refers in the title? Is it about Obama's broken campaign promises from 2008, as analyzed from the end of 2009? Such as:
- Closing Guantanamo: Obama failed because his advisor Greg Craig failed to address the issue politically rather than as a legal conundrum, and Obama didnít push it (pp. 340-1); but no, the title doesn't refer to that.
- Job creation: Obama immediately hedged by reporting on "Four million jobs created or saved" rather than jobs actually created (p. 22), but the title doesn't refer to that either.
- Ending the Iraq War: Obama took this seriously since 2009 (pp. 228-9) although progressives still don't believe the task is done as of 2012, but that's not the title Promise either.
- ObamaCare: That was the big Promise of the 2008 election, and Obama fulfilled it despite advice against it (pp. xiv-xv and pp. 244-5) but even that wasn't The Promise.
No, "The Promise" refers to "the promise of America," as the author quotes from Obama's nomination acceptance speech on p. 1, "the idea that we rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper.... That's the promise we need to keep." In other words, "The Promise" refers to the promise of "hope and change" that Obama brings to America -- which is indeed how he got elected -- rather than to any specific promises.
The author explicitly lays out the purpose of the book in his "Author's Note" on pp. vii:
The Promise addresses three questions:
- What happened? (the "hidden history" of "one of the most difficult presidential debuts of modern times")
- What's the president like? (via "access to Obama and his circle")
- How well did he do? (counting from the 2008 transition until the ObamaCare victory in March 2010)
This book is a solid analysis of Obama's transition to the presidency and his first year in office. It avoids the common problems that plague so many books by mainstream media writers: it's not inside baseball; it's not about the horse race; it's not hagiography; and it's not Obama-bashing. Jonathan Alter, Newsweek columnist and MSNBC analyst, manages to avoid those pervasive pundit pitfalls--so even though it only covers Year One, we recommend this book as a basis to analyze Obama's re-election campaign.
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, Massscorecard.org, March 2012
| Massscorecard.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Barack Obama: Catholic Bishops rejected segregated abortion funds.
Lois Capps: Segregate private funds for abortions from public money.
Budget & Economy|
Barack Obama: OpEd: Crisis means Obama won, but world's falling apart.
Barack Obama: Worked on TARP & bank bailouts during 2008 transition.
Hank Paulson: OpEd: TARP: Total Abdication of Responsibility to the Public.
Hank Paulson: Bailout was non-reversible and non-reviewable.
Joe Biden: TARP stuck in our throats, but it worked.
Phil Gramm: Economic whiners suffer from mental depression.
Timothy Geithner: Offended that people say he was doing Wall Street's bidding.
Barack Obama: Better to force auto bankruptcy than force out of business.
Barack Obama: Bank bonuses while receiving TARP were irresponsible.
Claire McCaskill: Limit TARP recipients' executive compensation to $400,000.
Elizabeth Warren: Scourge of the banking industry, on behalf of consumers.
Rahm Emanuel: Some areas of Michigan have it worse than Great Depression.
Energy & Oil|
Al Gore: Obama considered Gore as climate change czar.
Barack Obama: Top USDA priority: make sure all kids are well-fed.
Barack Obama: Cash for Clunkers: $4,500 to trade in old car for new.
Hillary Clinton: Obama: Her stature abroad meant she carries message further.
Barack Obama: Transition team ethics statement: "No Ego, No Glory".
Barack Obama: OpEd: gambler's instinct over "Slow Down crowd".
Joe Biden: Advised delaying ObamaCare while busy avoiding depression.
Rahm Emanuel: Advised delaying ObamaCare while busy avoiding depression.
Barack Obama: Moving Gitmo to Illinois was logistically & legally complex.
Barack Obama: Four million jobs created or saved by recovery program.
Principles & Values|
Barack Obama: OpEd: greatest talent is chairing balanced meetings.
Robert Gates: OpEd: non-ideological guy lent impression of bipartisanship.
Rod Blagojevich: Arrested in 2008 on federal corruption charges.
Sonia Sotomayor: OpEd: All Latinos proud of her, not just Puerto Ricans.
Tom Vilsack: Abandoned at birth; adopted out from orphanage.
Timothy Geithner: Personal tax problems caused Obama embarrassment.
Barack Obama: Network clean energy transmission lines like highway network.
Tom Coburn: Google for Government: all federal contracts on Internet.
War & Peace|
Joe Biden: We're in Afghanistan because of Al Qaeda, period.
Joe Biden: 2009: Monthly visit to Baghdad to wind down Iraq War.
Welfare & Poverty|
Elizabeth Warren: Foreclosures made recession's biggest victims.
The above quotations are from The Promise
President Obama, Year One,
by Jonathan Alter.
2008 Election Analysis:
- The Battle for America 2008, by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson, 2009
- Obama's Challenge, by Robert Kuttner, 2008
- The Obama Nation, by Jerome Corsi, 2008
- The Promise: Pres. Obama, Year One, by Jonathan Alter, 2010
- Third World America, by Arianna Huffington, 2010
- Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, 2010
- What Obama Means, by Jabari Asim, 2009
- The Faith of Barack Obama, by Stephen Mansfield, 2008
- Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, 2008
- Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, 2010
- Going Rogue, by Gov. Sarah Palin, 2009
- Barack Obama For Beginners, by Bob Neer, 2008
- We're Right; They're Wrong, by James Carville
- Right Now, by RNC Chair Michael Steele
- Behind the Oval Office, by Dick Morris
- Later election analyses