A narrative thriller about the battle royale surrounding Barack Obama's quest for a second term amid widespread joblessness and one of the most poisonous political climates in American history.
The election of 2012 will be remembered as a hinge of history. With huge victories in the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican Party had blocked President Obama at every turn and made plans to wrench the country sharply to the right. The 2012 contest offered the GOP a clear shot at controlling all three branches of government and repealing much of the social contract that dated back to the New Deal. Facing free-spending billionaires, Fox News, and a concerted effort in 19 states to rig the election by suppressing Democratic votes, Obama repelled the assault and navigated the nation back toward the center.
In The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, Jonathan Alter uses his unmatched access and deep knowledge of politics and history to produce the first full account of America at the crossroads. He pierces the bubble of the White House and of the presidential campaigns with exclusive reporting and rare historical insight. More than a campaign book, this is the epic story of an embattled president facing a historic moment he considered more pivotal than 2008.
Alter relates the untold story behind Obama's highs and lows, from his daring decision to raid Osama bin Laden's compound to the frustration of the debt ceiling fiasco to his run-ins with black and Latino activists he expected to be his firm allies. There are fresh details about the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, Roger Ailes, and the online haters who suffer from "Obama Derangement Syndrome". Alter takes us inside the GOP "clown car" primaries as well as Obama's disastrous preparation for the first debate. We meet Obama's analytics geeks working out of "The Cave" and the man who secretly videotaped Mitt Romney's infamous comments on the "47 percent".
The Center Holds, which follows Alter's acclaimed The Promise, will deepen our understanding of Obama's presidency, the 2012 election stakes, and the future of his second term.
©2013 Jonathan Alter (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
Mike is a national communications professional whose firm, Mike Collins Public Relations, has offices in Tampa and Washington, DC
By way of full disclosure, I was head writer for the Committee on Arrangements for the 2012 GOP Convention in Tampa (no, I did *NOT* write for Clint Eastwood -- or for the chair!) and have been a GOP communications operative for over two decades. I've met and spoken to Jonathan Alter several times over the years, so my opinions here might be influenced by that.Politics aside, I've always enjoyed Alter's writing in Newsweek and now Bloomberg and his frequent NBC appearances. He's thorough and has always treated me and my clients fairly. As an audio book addict, I usually prefer the spoken version, and Jonathan does an excellent job on this one.
Alter's book is a panorama of the famous and not-so-famous names of the 2012 campaign, some of whom I've been privileged to know personally. By far the most interesting individual in Alter's recounting was Scott Prouty, the bartender who secretly recorded the Romney "47 percent" video at a high-dollar fundraiser in south Florida.Alter goes into great (and, to me, previously unknown) detail about Prouty's elaborate efforts to shield his identity, explores his motivations -- and even tells us what became of him (he's working for Steelworkers' President Leo Gerard on international working conditions; not surprising since, according to Alter's telling, Prouty was angered by Romney's descriptions of conditions at a Chinese factory he'd acquired. It was this a portion of the gaffe-laden tape that Prouty thought would be most explosive - not the "47 percent" references.)
His delivery this time is much better than it was in his earlier audiobook, "The Promise." He seems more at ease, there's better affect -- and he even occasionally mimics accents and speaking patterns. Most authors shouldn't try to read their own text, and non-fiction is especially challenging. I was impressed with Alter's reading this time.
I nearly did, using it as entertainment on my two-day drive from Florida to Washington late last week. I enjoyed every minute of every one of the 800 miles!
I've recommended "The Center Holds" to a number of friends - Republicans and Democrats alike. It's a must-read for those interested in how the 2012 election was decided -- and a critical analysis of the first campaign in which detailed electronic voter data and outreach replaced old-fashioned precinct-level campaigning and fundraising. Republicans especially will benefit from it: Alter explores in great detail my party's inability to catch up with the Obama campaign's lead in technology and data, but more importantly gets to the real heart of Mitt Romney's defeat : the inability of the GOP in 2012 to communicate its concerns for the middle class and to accommodate the great demographic shifts in this country over the last 20 years. A great book, Jonathan. Congratulations!
This book is hard to "put down," with lots of inside information and insights into how the Obama administration functions and how the President thinks, as well as an intelligent recap of facts a well-informed reader probably already knows, but it's an interesting refresher to see it organized in one place.
Great behind the scenes look at the 2012 campaign and the fragmentation of our politics. Really sad we have come this low. One can only hope the situation improves. Very interesting listen.
The overall content of this book is spectacular if not an entirely unprecedented dissection of the most important election of our times to date. I agree with another reviewer who says that authors should seldom narrate their own material and even though I think Jonathan Alter is in the top five political commentators of the past twenty years, his narration was the weakest part of this audio. And yet, at the end of it, I was so pleased with what I had just listened to, I just shrug and say, "well done sir," but that still does not mean I think he should have done the narration.
This is a followup piece to Alter's initial Obama book, The Promise. Lots of behind-the-scenes details and context that make it easier to understand the president's thinking in some of the decisions that he has made. Alter is careful to maintain some distance from his subject and analyzes the mistakes that have been made objectively. His portrayal of President Obama helps to flesh out the man that is presented through careful media staging. If you are an Obama supporter, you will like him even more. If you are one of the haters, there is not enough dirt in this book to hold your limited attention.
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This is a a great book to read after The Audacity to Win. It gives you a great foundation for this book. Both are a must read for political geeks!
This is an excellent story -- a mural in its comprehensiveness, a portrait in its richness of detail.
WARNING: if you are a starchly conservative, closed-minded, tea party zealot, you will NOT like this book. All others should thoroughly enjoy the vastness of the historical scope and the crisp analysis of Jonathan Alter.
The author is not unbiased, and at times inappropriately and unnecessarily subjective. But for the most part, he presents a balanced, thorough, and well-documented account of the 2012 election. But not just the election. One of the book's major strengths is the author's ability to place the campaign in a much larger context, thus giving us a broader and deeper understanding of events, personalities, strategies, and outcomes. For example, he goes to the roots of Republican animus -- what he calls "Obama Derangement Syndrome" -- toward President Obama, the tea party movement, and the congressional gridlock resulting from the attitude of Republican leaders to sacrifice the nation to the aim of making Obama a one-term president.
All the key events are, of course, expertly covered -- the GOP primaries, the 47% remark, the first debate (and subsequent ones), etc. -- but in a way that puts the reader inside the campaign, and helps you to think: Oh, that's why he did that, or, what were they thinking?
I particularly enjoyed Alter's description of the Obama field operation and the technical apparatus behind -- simply masterful.
Finally, and most importantly, this is not just a book of insider politics, or simply those devout followers of Politico. It bears a message, and one that is crucial for politicians and citizens alike.
Just a brief word about the narration, which is done by the author. I generally think authors should not narrate their books (which may seem counterintuitive because, after all, who knows better how the story should be heard?). But just as Jonathan Alter would not turn to an actor to write his book, he would have been better off to turn to an actor to read his book. He doesn't do a poor job, except perhaps for the passages that sound like he's having an asthma attack, but my preference is for a professional to narrate the story as I rely on a professional to write it.
As an MSNBC junkie and a huge fan of Rachel Maddow I was very familiar with the author. I heard him discussing the book on NPR and it sounded like a book that I would really enjoy and I wasn't disappointed. It wasn't so much that there was anything very revolutionary about the information presented but it did clarify exactly how the President's reelection was achieved. Initially, I wasn't wowed by the author's narration but I grew to appreciate his understated presentation. This allowed the listener to focus on the historical storyline and not be distracted by the narration. I agree with others who suggested that this book would probably not hold great interest to the loyal opposition.
This is a great book! Could not put it down. The battle going on between two ideologies in America today is comparable to a war, with al that that implies. Jonathan Alter's description of the battle between the center and the right is riveting! There is as yet, no clear winner. Only history will tell.
It put me in the middle of the drama that was the 2012 election. Whew, what a ride!
The book tended to wander a bit, and it was tough to know what the central point of the story was, as he seemed to stray from that often.
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