Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE CENTER HOLDS by Jonathan Alter

THE CENTER HOLDS

Obama and His Enemies

By Jonathan Alter

Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-4607-8
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A veteran author, journalist and commentator chronicles the campaign that assured President Barack Obama a second term and cemented a consensus among Americans stretching back to the New Deal.

The 2012 election was neither the referendum on the president and the ailing economy as the GOP had hoped, nor simply a choice between the president and his opponent as Obama had wished. Rather, Bloomberg View columnist Alter (The Promise: President Obama, Year One, 2011, etc.) insists, it was a judgment on the Republicans and their mean-spirited billionaire backers, right-wing media cheerleaders, proponents of voter suppression and “clown car” of primary candidates. As he explores the many infirmities and outrages of the president’s opponents and details Obama’s many virtues, it’s clear that, for the author, the “center” of our politics lies decidedly to the left. This obvious bias impairs his analysis throughout, prompting him too often to offer opinion and speculation as fact. For example, he insists the vitriol directed toward the president exceeds anything in our recent history and claims that the president’s contempt for his opponent accounted for his lackluster first debate performance. He goes so far as to wonder if maybe the president threw the debate “because he wanted the game to be a little more challenging?” When he sticks to straight reporting, however, Alter shines. In always fluid, sometimes arresting prose, he tells the inside story of the bartender who surreptitiously taped Romney’s infamous 47 percent remark, offers sharp miniportraits of numerous campaign operatives, and brilliantly deconstructs the “Big Data” component of Obama’s Chicago headquarters, describing their technological innovations and smooth manipulation of social media that set a new standard for future campaigns.

The president’s supporters and, really, all political junkies will love this. Republicans, not so much.