Obama: Trump presidency was an 'elixir' for Americans 'spooked by black man in White House'

13 November 2020, 08:14 | Updated: 13 November 2020, 08:32

Mr Obama has said his Mr Trump presidency was a racist reaction to having a black leader
Mr Obama has said his Mr Trump presidency was a racist reaction to having a black leader. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Donald Trump's presidency was a racist reaction to having a black man in the White House, Barack Obama has said in his upcoming memoir.

The former president directly confronted the politics of the outgoing US leader in the first volume of his book, entitled 'A Promised Land', which has been obtained by CNN.

Mr Obama branded some in the Republican Party as xenophobic, paranoid conspiracy theorists and racist towards "Black and brown folks".

In the 768-page publication, set to be released on 17 November, the two-term president also reflects on his personal life while in the White House, admitting that it worsened his smoking habit and caused tension in his marriage with Michelle.

The 59-year-old suggested it was his seismic and historic election as the country's first black president that acted as a catalyst for some of the recent division in the US.

"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.

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"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."

The forthcoming tome focuses on the former president's childhood and his political rise before going all-in on his successful 2008 campaign and first term in the White House.

He dedicates hundreds of pages the political figures and fights during his tenure, such as passing Obamacare in 2010, the challenges of dealing with a wide range of world leaders, and his decision to approve the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

However, he hones in on his opposition and how the Republican Party evolved during his eight-year stay, by saying the nomination of Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate allowed "dark spirits" into the mainstream.

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"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," Mr Obama writes.

However, he also confronts his own shortcomings, branding his failure to pass immigration reform "a bitter pill to swallow" and acknowledging that the economy "stank" as he headed into the 2010 midterms, where Republicans reclaimed the House of Representatives on the back of the Tea Party movement.

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

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

Speaking of his successor's attempts to fan the lie that Obama was not born in the US, Mr Obama says he came to see the characteristics of Mr Trump as an exaggerated version of the Republican Party's attempts to appeal to the anxieties of white Americans regarding having a black president.

He says the incumbent president began purposely garnering media attention by saying controversial things and "that it didn't matter whether what (he) said was true".

The book's release comes as Mr Trump fights the results of the 2020 election, making the transition difficult for his successor Joe Biden.

Speaking of his own transfers of power, he writes: "Whether because of his respect for the institution, lessons from his father, bad memories of his own transition... or just basic decency, President (George W.) Bush would end up doing all he could to make the 11 weeks between my election and his departure go smoothly."

He adds: "I promised myself that when the time came, I would treat my successor the same way."

Mr Obama also touches on his relationship with the former vice president and now president-elect, Mr Biden, detailing why he picked the Democrat as his running mate.

"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," he writes.

"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."