The Promise

President Obama, Year One

The Promise

*EXCLUSIVE BONUS MATERIAL: In a rare and fascinating opportunity to hear an author – and a president – at work, the audiobook includes an exclusive recording of Jonathan Alter interviewing President Obama in the Oval Office on November 30th, 2009, a wide-ranging, half-hour conversation in which the president looks back on his first ten months in office, notes some of his accomplishments and challenges, reflects on the political environment of the day, and much more.

Alter, who writes and reports on national politics for Newsweek and NBC, comes from a politically involved Chicago family. He knows well the environment from which Obama launched his campaign for the senate and the presidency. Alter first met Obama when he visited the family as it sat shiva for one of its members.

Alter takes the listener into the inner circles of Obama’s intimates, those who were there from the start, and the gradually expanding circles, and to show for the first time the emotions, rivalries, alliances of the extremely tight-lipped and disciplined administration: Biden, whom he chose because he had the experience even though he was not an early supporter, Hillary, whom he had long wanted for Secretary of State.

There are stunning portraits of his oldest friends, including Valerie Jarrett, and his early supporters; the Kennedys, Daschle, and of the more volatile newcomers, Rahm of course, and Larry Summers, and Geitner.

Watch the president dominate his Cabinet with silences and stares (instead of shouting like Clinton or LBJ). Add to that the knowledge that leaking can lose you your job. (One advisor called Obama, “The most unsentimental man I have ever known.”)

Obama is, in this portrait, self-aware and shrewd, well organized and confident, a natural leader who doesn’t need or crave praise and is not given to spreading it around. (One intimate notes his praise is more likely to be “What’s next?” than “Good job.”) Nevertheless he is equable and attentive, and he listens. (It’s one of his techniques.) In fact, if one doesn't have anything to say at his meetings, you may not be invited back.

Alter characterizes Obama as a deductive thinker, and a fast one—eager for action. It is said that Clinton’s meetings always ran on too long and that Obama’s may be too short.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9781442334465 | 
  • May 2010
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The Defining Moment

About the Author

Jonathan Alter
Photo Credit: Kristopher Long

Jonathan Alter

Jonathan Alter is an analyst and contributing correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC. He is a former senior editor and columnist for Newsweek, where he worked for twenty-eight years, writing more than fifty cover stories. He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, 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, and Between the Lines, a collection of his Newsweek columns.