‘My very presence in White House triggered a deep-seated panic’: Obama responds to Trump’s birther movement in new memoir

‘For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he promised an elixir for their racial anxiety’

Louise Hall
Thursday 12 November 2020 15:46
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Former president Barack Obama has confronted Donald Trump’s promotion of the birther conspiracy theory and the rise of racist politics in the Republican party in the first volume of his new memoir: A Promised Land.

According to a copy of the book obtained by CNN, the former president’s new book deeply explores how the Republican party evolved during his eight years in office and reacted in response to his presidency.

"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," Mr 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.”

Mr Trump fuelled the flames of the conspiracy that Mr Obama was not born in America and was thus ineligible to be president.

The conspiracy theory first surfaced in 2008 but Mr Trump began stirring it up again in 2011 when Mr Obama began running for re-election.

“For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he promised an elixir for their racial anxiety,” Mr Obama writes.

The 768-page memoir which is set to be released on 17 November and details Mr Obama’s childhood and political rise, before examining his 2008 campaign and first four years in office as president.

The former president reportedly writes of how he believes the stark shift in the party started with the elevation of Sarah Palin to the Republican presidential ticket in 2008.

"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,” he writes.

Mr Obama describes how he saw the opposing party changed between 2008 to 2017  in an attempt to appeal to anxieties about the first Black president.

He writes that the sentiment “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.”

The memoir also reportedly acknowledges his own downfalls through the presidency, calling his failure to pass immigration reform "a bitter pill to swallow" and saying that the economy "stank" ahead of the 2010 midterms.

"As far as I was concerned, the election didn't prove our agenda had been wrong," Mr Obama writes of 2010.  

"It just proved that... I'd failed to rally the nation, as FDR had once done, behind what I knew to be right. Which to me was just as damning."

In a lighter part of the book, Mr Obama is said to speak highly of president-elect Joe Biden documenting his time as Mr Obama’s vice president.

"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," Mr 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."

A Promised Land is the former president’s third memoir alongside Dream from My Father in 1995 and The Audacity of Hope in 2006.

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