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Obama: From Promise to Power
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Obama: From Promise to Power

3.2 17
by David Mendell, Amistad Press (Manufactured by)

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David Mendell has covered Obama since the beginning of his campaign for the Senate and as a result enjoys far-reaching access to the new Senator--both his professional and personal life. He uses this access to paint a very intimate portrait of Obama and his life pre and post Senate, including Obama's new status as a sex symbol now that going into a crowd to shake


David Mendell has covered Obama since the beginning of his campaign for the Senate and as a result enjoys far-reaching access to the new Senator--both his professional and personal life. He uses this access to paint a very intimate portrait of Obama and his life pre and post Senate, including Obama's new status as a sex symbol now that going into a crowd to shake hands with constituents carries the added concern of being groped by women, and the toll this has had on his marriage. Mendell also describes the dirty tactics sanctioned by Obama--who has steeped his image and reputation on the ideals of clean politics and good government--to win his Senate seat by employing David Axelrod, a Chicago-based political consultant (consultant to the John Edwards's campaign) with what the author describes as "an appetite for the Big Kill."

Mendell also positions Barack Obama as in fact the Savior of a fumbling Democratic party, who is potentially orchestrating a career in Senate to guarantee him at the very least a vice presidential nod, if not a nod for the top job in 2008. The dream ticket would be Hilary Clinton-Barack Obama given his reception at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Because he enjoys popularity among Whites (particularly suburban White women) and Blacks, it might not be such a far-fetched idea.

Editorial Reviews

National Review
The single best source of background information on our new president.
Dan Balz
“David Mendell got to Barack Obama before most of the rest of the world, telling the story of Obama’s remarkable rise to power with deep reporting and in vivid detail. Obama was perhaps the most unlikely person ever to seek the presidency. Mendell’s fine book provides the historical backdrop for how Obama got to the starting line of that 2008 campaign. The story he tells is as fresh today as it was at the time.”
John McCormick
“This book was required reading for those of us who covered Obama’s 2008 campaign. Two White House terms later, it remains a fascinating and unfiltered read about the remarkable political rise of a major historical figure.”
Peter Slevin
“Long before Barack Obama was president, David Mendell was there and we’re lucky he was. In Obama: From Promise to Power, he uses his extraordinary access to Barack and Michelle Obama, their friends and aides, to deliver an engaging and insightful portrait of one of the most intriguing leaders in modern American history.”
Clarence Page
“I recommend this wonderful book to anyone who wants to know the real story behind Barack Obama’s historic rise to national political stardom. Having covered Obama since his Senate campaign began, David Mendell offers an insightful, richly detailed and refreshingly balanced account of a ‘change candidate’ who was neither as perfect or as flawed as others might want you to believe.”
Evan Osnos
“Long before Barack Obama made history, he attracted the attention of the gifted journalist David Mendell. His intimate interviews with the rising political star, and his brilliant analysis of the movement that formed around him, endure as an unparalleled chronicle of the making of an American president.”
Ben Smith
“Before Barack Obama was a towering political figure, he was a local pol. This book serves as a corrective to Obama mythmaking on both sides, and it provides an insider’s glimpse at the political origins and stunningly swift rise of Barack Obama.”
Alec MacGillis
“David Mendell was on the Obama story long before the rest of the world caught on. This book remains an essential text for understanding President Obama’s formative years.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
15 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Promise to Power

Chapter One

The Ascent

I'm LeBron, baby.
—Barack Obama

For those who know Barack Obama well, this might sound close to impossible, but the swagger in his step appeared even cockier than usual on the afternoon of July 27, 2004.

As summertime bathed downtown Boston in warm sunshine, Obama led a gaggle of reporters, aides and a couple of friends—a group occasionally two dozen deep—around a maze of chain-link security fences guarding the large-scale FleetCenter indoor arena. A former high school basketball player who, at forty-two, still relished a pickup game, the rail-thin Obama was carrying his upper body as if he were heading to the free throw line for the game-winning shot, a shot he believed was destined to sink. His shoulders were pitched backward. His head was held erect. His blue-suited torso swayed in a side-by-side motion with every pace forward. His enormous confidence appeared at an all-time peak. And for good reason: hours later, the Illinois state lawmaker and law school lecturer would take his first steps onto the national stage to deliver his now famous 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention.

Indeed, Obama's time in the bright sunshine had arrived. And though this moment had come upon him rather quickly, un-expectedly and somewhat weirdly, with only weeks of notice, his opportunity to prove to the world that he could play in this most elite league was at hand. Finally.

Having covered Obama for the Chicago Tribune since the early days of his U.S. Senate candidacy more than nine monthsbefore, I had already established a rapport with the state senator, and I was mostly trying to stay out of the way and watch the day unfold, watch the story of Barack Obama unfurl. Still, as a skeptical newspaper reporter, I was not completely convinced that, by day's end, all would come out well. I was still trying to gauge if this strut was something of an act, whether his winning free throw would clang on the rim and bounce away or whether he was on the verge of hitting nothing but net and making a national name for himself.

After Obama and I slipped through a security checkpoint and he momentarily broke free from the entourage, I sidled up to him and told him that he seemed to be impressing many people of influence in this rarefied atmosphere.

Obama, his gaze fixed directly ahead, never broke his stride.

"I'm LeBron, baby," he replied, referring to LeBron James, the phenomenally talented teenager who at the time was shooting the lights out in the National Basketball Association. "I can play on this level. I got some game."

I wasn't so sure. I fell back amid the marching gaggle of the Obama entourage and chatted with one of his closest friends, Marty Nesbitt, who had flown in from Chicago to accompany Obama during the convention week. I asked Nesbitt how he thought his friend would perform that night, given all the media attention and political pressure. "He sat down with Ted Koppel earlier this week and he hit the cover off the ball, didn't he?" Nesbitt asked. "Barack reminds me of a player on my high school basketball team back in Ohio. He could elevate his game to almost any situation. And when we needed a shot, he always hit it. Always."

That evening, Obama introduced himself to America. He delivered a keynote address of historic proportions, so inspiring that even some conservative commentators would concede they were moved by it. His rich baritone voice resolute and clear, he hearkened back to his beloved mother's philosophy of a common humanity, a philosophy that had been ingrained in him throughout his childhood. He declared that America is a land of good-hearted people, a nation of citizens who have more unifying traits than dividing traits, a country of individuals bound by the common purpose of freedom and opportunity for all. "There's not a liberal America and a conservative America—there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America—there's the United States of America. . . . We are one people. . . ."

Across the arena, many Democrats from various states, various walks of life, various races, had tears in their eyes. And as the woman seated next to me in an upper level of the FleetCenter joyously shrieked—"Oh my god! Oh my god! This is history! This is history!"—I looked around at the energized and emotional crowd and heard myself speak aloud to no one in particular.

"Yes, indeed. Tonight, Barack, you are LeBron, baby."

Throughout 2004, the political and cultural mood in Obama's home state of Illinois—and much of the country—was sharply polarized. A bevy of Democratic presidential aspirants had vied to challenge President George W. Bush, who had led the country into war in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington. Chagrined from being in the minority in both chambers of the Congress, Democrats desperately craved a strong candidate who could defeat Bush in the November election. Among those Democrats, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had won the party's nomination, but despairing Democrats were having difficulty warming up to him. They hungered for something more than Kerry could offer—a political savior, an inspirational figure who could lead them out of one of the darkest periods in their party's history. Kerry surely seemed electable, but his reserved nature and plodding public style made him far from a savior who could stir the souls of the masses.

At this point the nation was evenly divided on the Iraq war, but the Democrats were not. In the eyes of many moderate Democrats who had initially supported the war, the nationalistic fever that had washed over America in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist strike was beginning to wear off. For most left-leaning party members, the war had been nothing short of a colossal mistake from the . . .

From Promise to Power
. Copyright © by David Mendell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

David Mendell, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, wrote about urban issues and politics for the Chicago Tribune from 1998 to 2007. He is now a Chicago-based freelance writer and an adjunct instructor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. His writing has appeared in The New YorkerGQ, the Washington Post and other places.

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Obama: From Promise to Power 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not a Democrat, but I wanted to get to know the real Obama by an objective source because I think he will be our next president and if not next then some day. David Mendel writes an objective and very interesting look at Obama and how he came to run for president. I am a political junkie but not a political insider. Mr. Mendel writes for the novice in a captivating way that keeps one entertained by what could be a really boring subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Informative, behind the scenes look at one of the best presidents this country's ever had. He's had the courage to make powerful changes that this country desperately needed and someday history will prove him vindicated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Written from a journalists' perspective during Obama's early days, his rise into the state senate and eventually on to the US Senate. Great 'behind-the-scenes' stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like how this came up when i searched 'Complete Dumbass' for fun. I didn't even read this but i can guess its dumb. I didnt even want to give it a quarter of a star.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read David Mendell¿s intimate portrait of Barak Obama and `change the way you look at things ¿ so the things you look at will change.¿ Obama: From Promise to Power by David Mendell (Amistad 2007) Going from obscurity to star of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he may become the next President of the United States, yes Barak Obama. One of the most charismatic democratic contenders is reveled by David Mendell who has chronicled Obama since the beginning of his campaign for the Senate. Obama: From Promise to Power provides a unique insider perspective of the man who may become the next President of these United States. David Mendell is a journalist for the Chicago Post Tribune.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book to know the individuals that helped Obama behind the scenes. Gives a glimpse as to what he is like and what his vision is for the future of the United States.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You couldnt even spell 'Romney' right. You know, I am 14 years old, but still im amazed how stupid how people can be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Adull book about a dull subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Puhlease! This entity is the worst person ever to inhabit the white house! The only true thing he has ever said is that he planned to fundamentally transform America-what he didn't tell us is that his plans are for our harm-not our good. I (and over 50% of the population at this point) cannot even think of one good thing to say about this man-he has left us vulnerable to terrorism, racked up more debt than all other presidents combined, shown a blatant disrespect for the sanctity of life and manipulated and lied his way to buying minority votes, pandering and dancing to the strings of the late saul alinsky and the evil George soros, not to mention the Bilderbergers and other not so secret any longer societies. 'nuff said.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only interest I have after seeing him up close as presidemt is to see him GO AWAY!