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07-08-2010, 11:52 PM #1
The Promise: President Obama, Year One (2010)
The Promise: President Obama, Year One (2010) by Jonathan Alter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (18 May 2010) | ISBN: 1439101191 | English | Audio CD in MP3/Variable | 497 MB
Starred Review. Author and Newsweek editor Alter (The Defining Moment: FDR'S Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope) chronicles Obama's first year (plus) as U.S. President, from pre-inauguration planning through the passage of health care reform in March, 2010, in this engaging, fast-moving contemporary history. Exploring Obama's "temperament, his approach to decision making, and his analysis of his ambitious first year," as well as the overarching questions of "What happened?" and "How well did he do?", Alter will remind readers why they voted as they did, and why Obama was ultimately victorious.
Tasked with "the worst set of problems of any incoming president since Roosevelt in 1933," Obama served up a range of big-ticket solutions that included "the huge and underappreciated stimulus package, the auto bailouts, bank rescue and regulation... sending sixty-one thousand more troops to Afghanistan, and a health care bill," each of which Alter addresses in depth.
Alter finds that, despite the denial of right-wingers, Obama performed admirably in the first year, with progress on 50 percent of his campaign promises (and completion of 18 percent). Alter's prose is swift and subtly inspiring; the "Yes, we can!" motto rarely appears but provides an undercurrent for his record of accomplishment.
Readers interested in political process and the reality of progressive politics will enjoy this well-considered take on the current administration, a "second draft" of history from a dedicated journalist who wisely anticipates "dozens more versions to come."
Given the gravity of the financial crisis of 2008, the worst since the Great Depression, President Obama began his administration even before he was sworn in. Alter's assessment of Obama's first year, traditionally seen as setting the tone of a presidency, begins with cleaning up the legacy of the Bush administration (propping up the financial sector and bailing out the automobile industry) but focuses on the particular challenges facing Obama (dealing with the huge expectations of liberal Democrats and the staunch opposition of conservative Republicans).
The urgency of the time compelled a push to staff up quickly, and Alter chronicles the process that led to an overreliance on former Clinton appointees. Alter analyzes Obama's savvy and zenlike calm through escalating crises, from continued conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan through the truculence of some among his own party on the issue of health care reform, Obama's priority despite warnings of its political toxicity. Among the promises kept: initating an end to the military's don't ask don't tell policy, investment in high-speed rail, and support for national school reform.
Among the promises broken or not yet realized: immigration reform, financial regulation, and job creation. Alter, a senior editor at Newsweek, offers a fast-paced, penetrating look at the new administration and the president as he struggles to reconcile the promises espoused during the campaign and the realities of governing. --Vanessa Bush.
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