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.
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The Best Telling of the 2012 Campaign So Far
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!
Enthralling political autopsy, a must listen!