As his former Vice President Joe Biden prepares to become the 46th President of the United States, President Barack Obama is ready to present his reflections on his own presidency in the first part of his new memoir, A Promised Land.
Due to come out in book stories this week, on November 17, the memoir is an introspective read on the former President’s time in the White House and as the first African-American President of the United States.
Already, the memoir has received favourable reviews, with The New York Times writing: “Barack Obama is as fine a writer as they come. It is not merely that this book avoids being ponderous, as might be expected, even forgiven, of a hefty memoir, but that it is nearly always pleasurable to read, sentence by sentence, the prose gorgeous in places, the detail granular and vivid.”
From the ‘angriest’ he ever was in his presidency to his surprising smoking habit, tidbits of information about Obama’s memoir have been released to the memoir. Here’s what we’ve learnt so far.
Obama’s Book: ‘My presence triggered a deep-seated panic.’
US President Barack Obama shake hands with President-elect Donald Trump during the Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Barack Obama reflects on how his election win in 2008 sparked deeply racist attitudes among some Americans, which his successor Donald Trump aimed to fuel during his campaign for the 2016 election, according to CNN who received an early copy.
“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, 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.”
Indeed, Donald Trump notoriously promoted false conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s birthplace and questioned his citizenship in an overtly racist manner.
Obama’s Book: Obama sometimes smoked ‘eight to 10 cigarettes a day’.
President Obama said his smoking habit did not stop upon entering the White House. In fact, he says he would sometimes smoke eight to 10 cigarettes a day in the early days of his presidency, according to Yahoo News. The President said he would find a “discreet location to grab an evening smoke”.
He eventually quit, he shares, because his eldest daughter Malia “frowned” after “smelling a cigarette on my breath”. Obama said he “ceaselessly” chewed nicotine gum to quit.
Obama’s Book: Why he picked Joe Biden as Vice President
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and then-Vice President Joe Biden.
Ah, yes. Everyone’s favourite bromance: Joe Biden and Barack Obama.
In his memoir, Obama reflects on his decision to pick now President-elect Joe Biden as his vice president, saying it would have reassured “those who still worried [he] was too young”.
“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.”
Obama’s Book: George W. Bush was welcoming
After winning the 2008 US election, Obama reflects on his predecessor President George W. Bush providing a warm welcome and working hard to ensure a peaceful transition – something current President Donald Trump refuses to do for President-elect Biden.
“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 reflects.
He also shared that Bush’s 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.” And that he did, for President Trump in 2016.
Lastly, in an interview promoting his book with Oprah Winfrey, President Obama reflected on the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting – the moment a 20-year-old man opened fire at a primary school and killed 26 people, committing the deadliest mass shooting at a school in U.S. history.
“That was not only the saddest day of my presidency,” Obama reflected. “But when Congress failed to do anything in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, that was the angriest I ever was in my presidency. I was disgusted and appalled by the inaction.
“You had parents that had just lost their children sitting in front of senators asking for very modest, reasonable approaches. This wasn’t some radical agenda. They were asking for more effective background checks and other provisions to keep firearms out of the hands of disturbed folks. And it was all viewed as politics, as opposed to this human moment we should have been able to respond to as a society.”