8 Fascinating Revelations From Barack Obama's New Memoir, A Promised Land
Barack Obama has a new memoir on the way, and it's giving readers an introspective look into the former president's political rise. Titled A Promised Land, the book will be split into two volumes, with the first being released on Nov. 17 and the second to eventually follow.
"I wanted to tell a more personal story that might inspire young people."
"I hoped to give an honest rendering of my time in office — not just a historical record of key events that happened on my watch and important figures with whom I interacted but also an account of some of the political, economic, and cultural crosscurrents that helped determine the challenges my administration faced and the choices my team and I made in response," Obama previously told The Atlantic. "I wanted to tell a more personal story that might inspire young people considering a life of public service: how my career in politics really started with a search for a place to fit in, a way to explain the different strands of my mixed-up heritage, and how it was only by hitching my wagon to something larger than myself that I was ultimately able to locate a community and purpose for my life."
Obama certainly does not hold back as he details everything from how the presidency put a strain on his marriage to Michelle to how he believes the 2008 election played a role in Donald Trump's rise. Ahead of the book's release, keep reading for some of the biggest revelations in the memoir.
- Obama believes his presidency played a role in Donald Trump's rise and the dark transformation of the Republican party. "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," he wrote. "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."
- Similarly, he says the ideological shift in the Republican party can be traced back to when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate during the 2008 campaign. "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."
- As former vice president, Joe Biden would have been "more than ready to serve as president" if something had happened to him. "It might reassure those who still worried I was too young . . . 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."
- Unlike Trump, who is making Biden's presidency transition difficult, former President George W. Bush welcomed Obama. "Whether because of his respect for the institution, lessons from his father, bad memories of his own transition . . . or just basic decency, President Bush would end up doing all he could to make the 11 weeks between my election and his departure go smoothly," Obama wrote, adding that his daughters, Barbara and Jenna, "rearranged their schedules to give Malia and Sasha their own tour." "I promised myself that when the time came, I would treat my successor the same way."
- Obama owns up to the mistakes he made during his time in office. Obama revealed that his failure to pass immigration reform was "a bitter pill to swallow," adding, "As far as I was concerned, the election didn't prove our agenda had been wrong. 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."
- His stress from the White House led to a bad smoking habit. Obama revealed he would sometimes smoke eight to 10 cigarettes a day, but he quit after his daughter Malia "frowned" after "smelling a cigarette on my breath."
- His presidency took a toll on his marriage to Michelle Obama. "Despite Michelle's success and popularity, I continued to sense an undercurrent of tension in her, subtle but constant, like the faint thrum of a hidden machine. It was as if, confined as we were within the walls of the White House, all her previous sources of frustration became more concentrated, more vivid, whether it was my round the clock absorption with work, or the way politics exposed our family to scrutiny and attacks, or the tendency of even friends and family members to treat her role as secondary in importance."
- Obama then worried that he would never experience more lighthearted moments with Michelle again. "Lying next to Michelle in the dark, I'd think about those days when everything between us felt lighter, when her smile was more constant and our love less encumbered, and my heart would suddenly tighten at the thought that those days might not return."