Isn’t it a shame that he has to waste pages discussing this?
Courtesy of CNN:
Barack Obama directly confronts the racist politics of President Donald Trump in the first volume of his post-presidency memoir, bluntly suggesting how he believes his historic election in 2008 opened a wave of bitter and divisive turmoil that fueled Republicans’ obstructionism and ultimately changed the party, according to a copy of the book obtained by CNN.
“It was as if my very presence in the White House had triggered a deep-seated panic, a sense that the natural order had been disrupted,” Obama writes. “Which is exactly what Donald Trump understood when he started peddling assertions that I had not been born in the United States and was thus an illegitimate president. For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he promised an elixir for their racial anxiety.”The 768-page memoir, titled A Promised Land and due out on November 17, chronicles the future president’s childhood and political rise, before diving deeply into his historic 2008 campaign and first four years in office. Obama dedicates hundreds of pages to the fights and characters that colored his tenure, from his work to pass Obamacare in 2010 to the complexities of dealing with a slate of world leaders and finally his decision to approve the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
So here are some of the highlights addressed in the book.
His feelings on Sarah Palin:
“Through Palin, it seemed as if the dark spirits that had long been lurking on the edges of the modern Republican Party — xenophobia, anti intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, an antipathy toward Black and brown folks — were finding their way to center stage,” Obama writes
Obama writes that he “wonder(s) sometimes” about whether 2008 Republican nominee John McCain would still have picked Palin if he had known “her spectacular rise and her validation as a candidate would provide a template for future politicians, shifting his party’s center and the country’s politics overall in a direction he abhorred.”
“I’d like to think that given the chance to do it over again, he might have chosen differently,” Obama writes. “I believe he really did put his country first.”
On Joe Biden:
Obama recalls how Biden would offer differing opinions to many of his advisers, like when he was skeptical about the United States War in Afghanistan, leading other members of the Cabinet, like Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to consider Biden a naysayer. And how Biden would raise questions about how actions at the White House could impact Democrats in Congress.
The most detailed recollections of the Obama-Biden relationship came when the former president described picking Biden as his running mate.
“I liked the fact that Joe would be more than ready to serve as president if something happened to me — and that it might reassure those who still worried I was too young,” Obama wrote. “What mattered most, though, was what my gut told me — that Joe was decent, honest, and loyal. I believed that he cared about ordinary people, and that when things got tough, I could trust him. I wouldn’t be disappointed.”
On how George W. Bush treated him during the transition of power:
“Whether because of his respect for the institution, lessons from his father, bad memories of his own transition… or just basic decency, President Bush would end up doing all he could to make the 11 weeks between my election and his departure go smoothly,” Obama wrote, including noting that the Bush daughters, Barbara and Jenna, “rearranged their schedules to give Malia and Sasha their own tour.”
“I promised myself that when the time came, I would treat my successor the same way,” Obama said, a nod to his transition with Trump.
And of course, he did.
Gee, what an appropriate passage to read at this point in time.
On the constant cloud of racism that hovered over his presidency:
When describing his decision to criticize the arrest of Henry Louis Gates in 2009, Obama recalls how then White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asked if he would consider clarifying his statement. Obama writes that he told his top aide it will “blow over,” but he was wrong, learning later from his polling director that the incident caused a huge drop in support among white voters that he never recovered.
“The reaction to my comments on Gates surprised us all,” Obama writes. “It was my first indicator of how the issue of Black folks and the police was more polarizing than just about any other subject in American life.”
Those feelings just continued during the rise of Palin and the Tea Party, Obama writes, recalling how Michelle Obama “caught a glimpse of a Tea Party rally on TV.”
“She seized the remote and turned off the set, her expression hovering somewhere between rage and resignation,” Obama writes. “‘It’s a trip, isn’t it?’ she said. … ‘That they’re scared of you. Scared of us.'”
We were truly blessed to have Barack Obama as our president for eight years, and I hope future historians recognize that.
The pressures he was under were amplified by the color of his skin, and yet he always comported himself with grace and dignity even while hateful mobs were yelling the most incendiary things about him and his family.
It was not that he did not deserve the opportunity to serve as America’s president, it may have been America who did not deserve him.