Emily Goodin, Daily Mail, November 12, 2020
In the 768-page tome, entitled ‘A Promised Land’ and out on November 17, Obama reflects on his political career but divulges in the personal, admitting life in the White House increased his smoking habit and caused tension in his marriage with Michelle.
He also speaks to race relations in the United States, writing it was his own historic election as the nation’s first black president that sparked some of the current division in the country.
‘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 in the book, which was obtained by CNN.
Donald Trump, he claims, sensed the country’s mood and took advantage of it to win the White House in the 2016 election.
‘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,’ he writes.
But, Obama claims, the roots of the the problem came before the current president. He traces it to John McCain’s decision to name Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election.
‘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.
However, he goes on to absolve McCain of any responsibility, saying he believed the senator, who died of brain cancer in 2018, wouldn’t have made the same choice if he knew what the future held.
‘I’d like to think that given the chance to do it over again, he might have chosen differently,’ wrote Obama, who gave one of eulogies at McCain’s funeral. ‘I believe he really did put his country first.’
This book deals with his first term in the White House. It begins with his early political campaigns and ends with a meeting in Kentucky where he is introduced to the SEAL team involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
It recounts his first presidential election, his attempt to pass healthcare reform and his work with Republican congressional leaders Senator Mitch McConnell and then-House Speaker John Boehner.
His mentions of Trump come through the prism of Trump’s criticism of himself, including fanning the lie that Obama was not born in the United States.
He notes Trump’s musings were originally seen as a joke but he came to regard them as part of the Republican Party’s attempts to appeal to white Americans’ anxieties about the first black president.
‘In that sense, there wasn’t much difference between Trump and Boehner or McConnell. They, too, understood that it didn’t matter whether what they said was true,’ he writes, adding: ‘In fact, the only difference between Trump’s style of politics and theirs was Trump’s lack of inhibition.’
He also described McConnell as power hungry, writing what the Kentucky senator ‘lacked in charisma or interest in policy he more than made up for in discipline, shrewdness and shamelessness — all of which he employed in the single-minded and dispassionate pursuit of power.’