As it happenedended1605757155

Barack Obama book: Highlights from former president’s tell-all autobiography A Promised Land

The Independent goes page by page through former president’s latest memoir

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Barack Obama says it will take 'more than one election to reverse US division'

The public long knew Barack Obama was using his time after leaving the White House to write a memoir detailing his time as the 44th president of the United States. After nearly four years of waiting, Mr Obama has released his 701-page memoir entitled A Promised Land – the first instalment of his presidential memoirs

A Promised Land opened with Mr Obama detailing his political history when he was younger, prior to entering politics. Then the meat of the memoir dove into Mr Obama’s state Senate run, with Michelle Obama by his side, before deciding national politics was a better route for him to make more change in America. 

Mr Obama offered an honest admission of the marriage struggles he went through during this time, detailing how his wife refused to campaign with him for his US Senate race. Then when he first approaches her about running for president, she responded: "God, Barack … When is it going to be enough?” 

But nationwide enthusiasm for Mr Obama soared, and she later got on board with him running in the 2008 presidential election against Republican Senator John McCain. 

The memoir then followed Mr Obama through his first term in the White House, including his ongoing battle with Republicans in Congress to work on any bipartisan legislation – such as the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act. 

Senator Mitch McConnell faced criticism from the former president throughout the memoir for joining most Republicans in their refusal to work with his administration. Continuing with his candour, Mr Obama expressed regret for not getting rid of the filibuster rule on his first days in the White House because of his inability to pass legislation related to climate change and immigration reform. 

“The truth was, I didn’t regret paving the way for twenty million people to get health insurance. Nor did I regret the Recovery Act … I didn’t regret ho we’d handled the financial crisis … And I sure as hell wasn’t sorry I’d proposed a climate change bill and pushed for immigration reform,” he wrote. 

President Donald Trump also made an appearance in the memoir for his role in 2011 of stoking conspiracy theories regarding Mr Obama’s citizenship. “I knew that the passions he was tapping, the dark, alternative vision he was promoting and legitimising, were something I’d likely be contending with for the remainder of my presidency,” he wrote. 

The first installment of Mr Obama’s presidential memoirs ended with the killing of Osama bin Laden, a move that was the first and last time in his presidency that he said he didn’t have to “sell what we’d done” to the American public. 

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Welcome to The Independent’s liveblog of President Barack Obama’s new memoir A Promised Land. Follow along as we go page by page through the memoir. 

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Obama defends breaking his memoir into two instalments

The president has never been known for being short and to the point with his personal speeches and writings, so it should come as no surprise his need to break his presidential memoir into two instalments. 

In the preface, Mr Obama admitted that “a more gifted writer” likely held “greater brevity” with how they could narrate a story without making it too long, referencing President Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg Address. But he found himself “resisting a simple linear narrative” and instead wanting to provide “context for the decisions” he made while in office. 

This added context made it so his memoir quickly grew in length to now involve not one, but two instalments. His first instalment boasts 701 pages and follows the president through his first term in the White House. 

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Mr Obama’s path to the White House started not through a passion of politics, but a passion with social movements. 

“Where ordinary people joined together to make change,” he writes. 

Early labour organisers like Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King, and John Lewis receive a mention by the former president, and it inspired him to transfer to Columbia University in New York to pursue knowledge about those moments. 

“Oh, how earnest I was then – how fierce and humourless,” he writes, stating he often spent his time in college holed up in his Manhattan apartment reading and attempting to answer complex questions about what makes a social movement. 

This led him to working in Chicago for grassroots organisations before deciding to go to Harvard Law School. 

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Obama describes first run for Congress as 'precisely the wrong answer’

Entering into politics started with Mr Obama running for Illinois’ state senate, specifically to be the senator of the town of Springfield, Illinois. 

He admitted that his decision to join politics resided on a want to make a difference, but he quickly learned that politics does not move fast - especially working in a state legislature as the minority party. 

His work juggling three jobs, including being state senator, put a strain on he and Michelle Obama’s marriage. They had their first daughter, Malia, during this period and learned after the first couple months how difficult it would be on their small family with both parents attempting to work. 

“We began arguing more, usually late at night when the two of us were throughly drained,” Mr Obama writes. 

Then, instead of “lightening the load”, Mr Obama decided to set his sights on Congress. 

“It’s hard, in retrospect, to understand why you did something stupid … I mean dumb choices in the wake of considerable deliberation … and then with utter confidence come up with precisely the wrong answer … that was me running for Congress.” 

In his first run for Congress, Mr Obama lost by thirty points. The defeat found his bank account drained and him realising that his drive in politics was no longer guided by a “selfless dream of changing the world”. 

“I had become the very thing that, as a younger man, I had warned myself against,” he writes. “I had become a politician – and not a very good one at that.” 

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‘You shouldn’t even count my vote’: Michelle Obama refuses to campaign for Obama’s US Senate race

Multiple years passed after Mr Obama’s race to join Congress ended in a debilitating defeat, which included the family welcoming their second child, Sasha. 

While he considered leaving politics at the time, Mr Obama said the the change in the political landscape of Illinois kept him involved. Then, with the realisation of really wanting to “shake things up” in politics, Mr Obama decided to run for the US Senate where he would have a wider audience, compared to state politics, if he won.  

“I experienced great clarity – not so much that I would win, but that I could win, and that if I did win, I could have a big impact,” he writes. 

Mrs Obama was not quite on board with the decision given how the last congressional race diminished their finances, but she didn’t tell him not to run. 

“'This is it Barack,' Michelle said. ‘One last time. But don’t expect me to do any campaigning. In fact, you shouldn’t even count on my vote.'”

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Obama reveals a John Kerry staffer took favourite lines from his 2004 convention speech

Mr Obama was asked by 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to speak at the Democratic National Convention that year for the party. He was asked because his US Senate campaign in Illinois gained national media attention for how successful the race was for the inexperienced Democrat. 

In his memoir, Mr Obama detailed negotiating with Mr Kerry’s staff to allow him to speak for 17 minutes as opposed to eight minutes. But he confessed to being “angry” after one of his favourite lines from the speech was pulled so Mr Kerry could say it instead in his own speech. 

“My anger when a young Kerry staffer informed us that I had to cut one of my favourite lines because the nominee intended to poach it for his own speech,” he writes. 

That young staffer was Jon Favreau, who would later be hired on by Mr Obama to work in his US Senate office. Mr Favreau would go on to become the director of speechwriting for the 44th president. 

Mr Obama’s campaign staffer had to remind him that he was a “state senator” who was already awarded a monumental victory of being invited onto the “national stage”. 

“I’ve only watched the tape of my 2004 convention speech once all the way through,” Mr Obama adds. “… I can see a touch of nerves at the beginning, places where I’m too fast or too slow, my gestures slightly awkward, betraying my in experience … but there comes a point in the speech where I find my cadence … it’s the kind of moment I’d come to recognise in subsequent years.” 

Following the convention speech, Mr Obama easily won his US Senate seat. But the victory was bittersweet after the Republican Party kept the presidency, House, and Senate. 

Watch the convention speech here: 

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‘The time chooses you’: How Ted Kennedy swayed Obama towards running for president

As a junior senator in Congress, Mr Obama thought he would build up his persona among those in Illinois for a few terms before considering other avenues for his career. But in 2005 and 2006, Mr Obama was holding a lot of attention among young voters and minorities. 

Former Senator Harry Reid was the first politician to approach Mr Obama about considering to run at a time when Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were also considering presidential runs for the 2008 election. Mr Reid’s opinions about Mr Obama entering the race were echoed by other politicians like Chuck Schumer. 

It was then a conversation with Ted Kennedy that appeared to really sway Mr Obama that maybe a presidential run was what he should be doing instead of remaining in the Senate. 

Mr Kennedy said he would not be “wading in early” to endorse a  Democratic candidate but that Mr Obama’s “power to inspire is rare". 

“'You think you may not be read, that you’ll do it at a more convenient time,'” Mr Kennedy said at the time, writes Mr Obama. “'But you don’t choose the time. The time chooses you. either you seize what may turn out to be the only chance you have, or you decide you’re willing to live with the knowledge that the chance has passed you by.'"

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Michelle asks her husband 'when is it going to be enough’ as he mulls over running for president

Conversations about Mr Obama running for president heightened in 2006 ahead of the midterm elections. 

In the memoir, Mr Obama detailed when he first broached the option with Mrs Obama, just two years after he won his US Senate seat. 

At the time, he told her that he would only consider running if she was “on board”. “'If that’s true then the answer is no,'” Mrs Obama said at the time, writes the former president. “'I don’t want you to run for president, at least not now … God, Barack … When is it going to be enough?'” 

Mr Obama admitted he put his wife in an “impossible spot” after years of her supporting his political endeavours that she gave into “reluctantly but with love”. 

Months passed but the coverage remained that Mr Obama could be running for president, and his campaign staff was seeing a path to victory for the young Democrat even among nationally known politicians like Hillary Clinton. 

The book then detailed one meeting with Mr Obama’s campaign staff and his wife when she asked him why he  specifically over other qualified candidates needed to be president. 

“'I know that the day I raise my right hand and take the oath to be president of the United States, the world will start looking at America differently,'" Mr Obama writes about his response. “'I know that kids all around this country – Black kids, Hispanic kids, kids who don’t fit in – they’ll see themselves differently … their possibilities expanded. And that alone … that would be worth it.'" 

In response, Mrs Obama said that was a “pretty good answer”. 

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Obama defends his diplomatic stance on foreign issues

Mr Obama reflected on the presidential race and mistakes he made along the way in his bid to be the 44th president of the United States. But he stood by his response that he would meet with any foreign adversary no matter who they were, a statement at the time that sparked backlash for Mr Obama all through Washington. 

“I said yes – I’d meet with any world leader if I thought I could advance US interests … you would have thought I said the world was flat,” Mr Obama writes. “A bunch of candidates punched, accusing me of being naive, insisting that a meeting with the American president was. privilege to be earned … [I] was convinced I was right, particularly on the more general principle that America shouldn’t be afraid to engage in adversaries or push for diplomatic solutions to conflict.” 

Another foreign policy move that sparked backlash was Mr Obama saying he would “take the shot” if Osama bin Laden was “in my sights within Pakistani territory”. This move sparked bipartisan backlash from the likes of Joe Biden and John McCain. 

But Mr Obama said he thought these moments helped him standout among the other political candidates in Washington. 

“These episodes indicated the degree in which the Washington foreign police establishment got things backward … it also indicated the degree to which decision makers in Washington consistently failed o level with the America people … the Democratic primary voters agreed with me," Mr Obama writes. 

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‘You’re likeable enough, Hillary’ 

One blunder on the campaign trail happened during a debate before the New Hampshire primary when Hillary Clinton was asked why voters felt she was “likeable”.

“This was the type of question that drove me nuts on several levels,” Mr Obama writes. “It was trivial. It was unanswerable … it was indicative of the double standard that Hillary specifically and women politicians in general had to put up with.” 

Mr Obama interjected during that moment and said: “You’re likeable enough, Hillary.” He meant for the moment to be on his opponent’s side and indicate “scorn for the question”. But the delivery was off. 

“A story emerged – that I have been patronising towards Hillary, dismissive, even, yet another boorish male putting down his female rival … the opposite of what I had meant.” 

His campaign team decided not to address the remarks as they feared it would just “only fuel the fire”. But this moment spiralled to help Mrs Clinton gain more support among voters, and Mr Obama said his campaign staff even warned they might lose the presidential race. 

Mr Obama went on to lose the New Hampshire primary against Mrs Clinton. 

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