In his new post-presidency memoir, former President Barrack Obama explicitly states that his election in 2008 gave rise to racial tensions in the United States that he says President Donald Trump exploited for political purposes. He also accuses former Gov. Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee in 2008, of unleashing “xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, and antipathy towards black and brown folks” in the Republican Party, giving way to Trump’s rise.
“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.”
Obama’s memoir, titled “A Promised Land,” details his childhood, rise in politics, historic presidential campaign, and the first four years of his presidency. The book, which is due out Nov. 17, is the first volume of a planned two-volume work. In excerpts from the book published by CNN, Obama accuses the Republican Party, and Palin in particular, of making racist and conspiratorial attitudes mainstream.
“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.
He said he “wonder(s) sometimes” about whether the late 2008 Republican nominee John McCain would still have chosen 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.”
He accuses the Republican Party of appealing to white Americans’ supposed anxieties about the first black president to thwart his agenda, a strategy that “had migrated from the fringe of GOP politics to the center — an emotional, almost visceral, reaction to my presidency, distinct from any differences in policy or ideology.”
Obama also discusses Trump, who championed the 2011 conspiracy that Obama was not born in the United States. He writes that Trump’s birtherism and, in his view, GOP leadership’s appeal to white Americans to oppose his agenda was more or less the same.
“In that sense, there wasn’t much difference between Trump and [John] Boehner or [Mitch] McConnell. They, too, understood that it didn’t matter whether what they said was true,” he writes. “In fact, the only difference between Trump’s style of politics and theirs was Trump’s lack of inhibition.”
Obama writes that it was for this reason he used his vice president, Joe Biden, as the administration’s go-to negotiator with the Republican-controlled Congress.
“One of the reasons I’d chosen Joe to act as an intermediary — in addition to his Senate experience and legislative acumen — was my awareness that in McConnell’s mind, negotiations with the vice president didn’t inflame the Republican base in quite the same way that any appearance of cooperation with (Black, Muslim socialist) Obama was bound to do,” Obama writes.