The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: June 2013
Duration: 18 hours 45 minutes
Jonathan Alter's The Promise compared Obama's first year in office to the early months of FDR's famous "100 days," which Alter profiled in The Defining Moment The Promise was praised for its fast pace. In this sequel, Alter digs into the hurly burly of the campaign and Obama's performance as president. It is the story of how he won or lost the election, describing the forces arrayed against him—a sinking economy, obdurate partisan opposition, his own Administration's faulty communication policy.
Obama's enemies paint lurid and often untrue stories about him. After emerging in 2008 as the vessel of so many hopes, he is now a receptacle for the fears of those who despise him, as well as average Americans who are simply scared. Short of a more robust recovery than anyone expects, Obama's prospects for reelection depend on his success in stripping off the labels ("socialist," "Muslim," "terrorist-coddler," "Kenyan anti-colonialist").
Alter follows the President from the shellacking of the 2010 midterm election through the end of this term and the next term. Obama had hesitated in countering obstinate resistance of GOP congressional leaders, the tea party, and other haters; he had failed to communicate over their heads to the public.
But this is the climactic clash between Obama's citizens' army and the moneyed clique. The first incumbent president to raise less money than his opponent, his campaign has placed a huge bet on digital technology to create an innovative network for contacting voters. His ground troops are arrayed against the other side that uses voter suppression and sheer money. We'll see if that is enough.
Alter is in the best position of any writer to chronicle the inside-the-White House story of how Obama tries to salvage his presidency. He has deep contacts within the campaign and the Administration.
Obama, Alter writes, always believed he could hit the three-point shot at the buzzer. Alter takes us on the court with Obama as he tries to hit the last big shot of his political career.