I have very mixed feelings after reading this. Obama is a superb writer, able to keep the narrative moving as he artfully mixes the story of his administration with the personal, historical, and social currents of the years covered.
Though I was working in journalism and professionally following many of the events described, I never lost interest in reading Obama’s retelling of these years because of the way he explains the problems, deliberations, and decisions reached. What’s impressive is how well he mixes in explanations. Before going into the negotiations that led to the Dodd-Frank banking bill, for example, you get a five-page, perfectly lucid explanation on how the international banking system works. Before a visit to a foreign country, you get two pages on the country’s recent history, plus the personality and problems facing the country’s president. My favorite parts of A Promised Land, though, were reading how events affected Obama and his marriage and family.
What left me feeling down was how difficult it all was and the implications for what the U.S. faces going forward. Getting anything done involved Herculean efforts, even when Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate and even though his administration started with a major economic crisis that required the country pulling together. It was a stark reminder of how difficult it will be for Biden to reach across the aisle and how unlikely it is that the next few years will produce the progress we so desperately need.