From the day the Obamas moved into the White House, I’ve been looking forward to the books they write after they move out and we’re about to get one.
In case you need a refresher, here are some of the controversies drummed up by Republican politicians and the media while Obama was President. The video is pretty long, but that’s because each controversy comes with a multitude of clips where Republicans look utterly ridiculous trying to make Obama out to be an unfit, devious leader.
Here’s the list in case a 15 minute Youtube video isn’t your thing (it’s usually not mine either, so I understand):
10. Obama asked a Marine to hold an umbrella over him in the rain during a press conference.
9. Obama wasn’t wearing an American Flag pin while he gave a speech.
8. Obama took Michelle on an “extravagant” date night to NYC to see a Broadway show.
7. Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, a Muslim king!
6. Obama asked for dijon mustard on his burger.
5. Obama used a selfie-stick in a commercial.
4. Obama sat in the Oval Office without his jacket on.
3. Obama wore a “dumb helmet” while he rode a bike in contrast to “big strong muscular” Putin riding a horse shirtless.
2. Obama saluted a marine while holding a latte.
1. The infamous tan suit.
Obama’s Presidency was when we really began to see a complete breakdown of typical Washington norms. The Tea Party exploded at the beginning of his service and Mitch McConnell had gone full comic villain by the end. They blocked his judges — from the Supreme Court on down — and tried to make him as ineffective as possible because the Republican Party was not interested in working with a liberal Black man who had only been a Senator for three years.
I know the Obamas have a lot to say. I assumed (and still assume) they are too classy and mature to say all that they want to say, but we’re about to get a few peeks into what it was like to be President Obama.
On Sarah Palin:
She had “no idea what the hell she was talking about.”
On Mitch McConnell:
What he “lacked in charisma or interest in policy he more than made up for in discipline, shrewdness and shamelessness — all of which he employed in the single-minded and dispassionate pursuit of power.”
On Lindsey Graham:
He’s a spy movie villain “who double-crosses everyone to save his own skin.”
Matroness Lindsey Olin Graham Sugarbaker Devereaux is probably the most loathsome creature in the Senate, because the fire with which that troglodyte went after Trump during the Republican primaries was actually impressive. Every chance he got, he tried to remind voters that Trump is an adulterous racist bigot, but now they’re bosom buddies with Lindsey taking any opportunity to bend over (backward?) for Trump and exposing himself for the spineless jellyfish he really is.
But Barack, sir, Mr. President: I need more!!!
I really thought Michelle would be the one to lift the lid off his Presidency because she’s a little more unfiltered, but I’ll settle for glimpses in Obama’s memoir. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s review for The New York Times paints a picture of a former President examining his own motivations, addressing his shortcomings, and giving us insight into what it was like to be President, but without giving away too much. Apparently he doesn’t dig in as much as you would expect and everything has a shiny veneer of respectability, but it’s a pleasure to read. This is how she opens and closes her review.
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.
Here, then, is an overwhelmingly decent man giving an honest account of himself. It is now normal to preface any praise of a public figure with the word “flawed,” but who isn’t flawed? As a convention it feels like an ungracious hedge, a churlish reluctance to commend the powerful or famous no matter how well deserved. The story will continue in the second volume, but Barack Obama has already illuminated a pivotal moment in American history, and how America changed while also remaining unchanged.
I rarely read memoirs. I think Tiffany Haddish’s book is the only one in the genre that I’ve read in the past few years. But I’m interested in Obama because I think the picture we painted of him is not the picture he saw of himself, so some of our disappointment stemmed from an expectation that he would be more liberal and more radical than he ever alluded to being. Given that, it would also make sense that he wouldn’t really drag his political opposition the way I would want him to, and that’s fine. You can say a lot of things about Barack Obama, but nobody can argue that he doesn’t stay in character.
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