Barack Obama rage-texts about politics until 2 am, then rage-Pelotons at 8 am

Obama Meets Trump

The New York Times did a lengthy piece about Barack Obama this week. I thought, at first, it was just going to be a hype piece about how the former president is getting amped up to campaign for Joe Biden. But it’s about a lot more than that, and it was a lot shadier than I was expecting. The Times goes through Obama’s history with Donald Trump, his opinions on his successor, Obama’s qualms about what to say and when about how awful Trump is, and how Obama doesn’t want to overshadow Biden in any way. You can read the full Times piece here. There were several excerpts I wanted to highlight:

Obama knows he lives in Trump’s head: “There is no model for my kind of post-presidency,” he told the aide. “I’m clearly renting space inside the guy’s head.” The stakes of that re-engagement were always going to be high. Mr. Obama is nothing if not protective of his legacy, especially in the face of Mr. Trump’s many attacks. Yet interviews with more than 50 people in the former president’s orbit portray a conflicted combatant, trying to balance deep anger at his successor with an instinct to refrain from a brawl that he fears may dent his popularity and challenge his place in history.

Obama’s summer plans: Mr. Obama’s head appears to be somewhere in the middle. He is not planning to scrap his summer Vineyard vacation and is still anguishing over the publication date of his long-awaited memoir. But last week he stepped up his nominally indirect criticism of Mr. Trump’s administration — decrying a “shambolic, disorganized, meanspirited approach to governance” during an online Biden fund-raiser.

He hates Trump’s racism: On Thursday, during an invitation-only Zoom fund-raiser, Mr. Obama expressed outrage at the president’s use of “kung flu” and “China virus” to describe the coronavirus. “I don’t want a country in which the president of the United States is actively trying to promote anti-Asian sentiment and thinks it’s funny. I don’t want that. That still shocks and pisses me off,” Mr. Obama said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by a participant in the event.

His advice to Biden: Mr. Obama speaks with the former vice president and top campaign aides frequently, offering suggestions on staffing and messaging. Last month, he bluntly counseled Mr. Biden to keep his speeches brief, interviews crisp and slash the length of his tweets, the better to make the campaign a referendum on Mr. Trump and the economy, according to Democratic officials.

His long-struggling memoir versus Michelle’s Becoming: The process has been a gilded grind. One former White House official who checked in with Mr. Obama in mid-2018 was told the project “was like doing homework.” Another associate, who ran into the former president at an event last year, remarked at how fit he looked. Mr. Obama replied, “Let’s just say my golf game is going a lot better than my book.” It was not especially easy for the former president to look on as his wife’s book, “Becoming,” was published in 2018 and quickly became an international blockbuster. “She had a ghostwriter,” Mr. Obama told a friend who asked about his wife’s speedy work. “I am writing every word myself, and that’s why it’s taking longer.”

The rage-Peloton-er: The former president devours online news, scouring The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlantic sites on his iPad constantly, and keeps to his White House night-owl hours, sending texts and story links to friends between midnight and 2 a.m. Even during the pandemic he does not sleep late, at least on weekdays, and is often on his Peloton bike by 8 a.m., sending off a new round of texts, often about the latest Trump outrage.

Obama shies away from calling Trump racist: Eric Holder has few qualms about calling Mr. Trump a racist in the former president’s presence. Mr. Obama has never contradicted him, but he avoids the term, even in private, preferring a more indirect accusation of “racial demagoguery,” according to several people close to both men.

[From The NY Times]

I think that last part, about Obama being reticent to call Trump a racist is indicative of the larger concerns around Obama right now. He’s so used to being attacked over everything, especially whenever he said anything about race and racism, that he pulls his punches. Michelle does that too. And I get it – we should not expect Mom and Dad to rescue us all the time. We got ourselves into this f–king mess, it’s not Barack Obama’s responsibility to get us out of it. But yeah, he’s being too cautious. I hope he starts rage-tweeting a bit too, come on! That would be fun. And my mind was blown by the fact that he’s told people that Michelle had a ghostwriter!!

Former US President Barack Obama in Berlin

Photos courtesy of Backgrid and Avalon Red.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

42 Responses to “Barack Obama rage-texts about politics until 2 am, then rage-Pelotons at 8 am”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Dragonlady sakura says:

    Racists have attacked this man for just breathing, so I can understand him not wanting to engage in a war of words. Trump and all cronies will cry jealousy and it angers me that someone cannot voice their true opinion without it becoming a racist free for all.

    • Escondista says:

      I think President Obama is also still extremely careful because he has children who are navigating the world as young adults and he is prioritizing their safety over being the spicy, petty b we all want him to be.

  2. Gina says:

    I’m so looking forward to him joining this battle in a more public forum.

    His comment about renting space in trumps head is so spot on especially because that is FREE rent space!

  3. Becks1 says:

    can you imagine being in a Peloton class with him? I wonder what his leaderboard name is lol.

    He’s in a tricky part. Usually past presidents are supportive of their successors and there’s not this level of animosity. So GWB didn’t need to attack Obama because Obama wasn’t attacking GWB once elected. This is a new situation and I can see Obama wanting to look like the bigger person here.

  4. RoSco says:

    I get that it would be cool to see Obama go off because he’s got such a way with words but a lot of his value comes from being able to remain cool under all circumstances, which is something Trump could never.

  5. Elizabeth Regina says:

    Michelle has always been the smarter one. Why labour over every word when a ghost writer can do a much better job with less need for copy and structural editing. I wish him the very best. Even people that did not particularly like him in the UK respected him. As for the present occupant, I hope America votes him out, come what may.

  6. Watson says:

    It’s not Obama’s fault America chose a dumpster fire to lead the country, and it’s not his responsibility to save it. I miss that man.

  7. Mindy_Dopple says:

    He is no Ionger an elected official and he gets to pull punches now. He’s like an ex boyfriend we’re trying to pull into our awful marriage. Just let the man be!! Also I love that he’s a little bitter about Michelle’s ghost writer. It was still a success and she’s not sweating it anymore. As an expert short cut cook, it’s smart to use items you know will taste the same and save you time. Think about some help Barack!! Lol

  8. KellyRyan says:

    Truth to Power. Obama lives rent free in my head. That part which is filled with warmth and gratitude, pleased he speaks out and will continue to do so. I have a passion for inclusivity and diversity, the 14th amendment, and a new administration.

    • Anne Call says:

      I practically start weeping when I see a picture of him. How could we go from that smart thoughtful empathetic leader to the moronic racist sexist sociopath we have now?

      • Calibration says:

        I live in NZ and watch his speeches online often. I miss him. Though we have a great PM.

      • Nibbi says:

        Calibration, your PM is complete leadership goals for the world. She is amazing. I wonder if her leadership will end up leaving an ever bigger impact than Obama’s. This American is a huge fan.

  9. Tiffany :) says:

    I don’t see him as being overly cautious. He’s strategic. Make the most noise at the right time. He’s the biggest weapon in the Democratic arsenal. He needs to be deployed at the right time. Now ain’t it, it’s premature.

    • Market Street Minifig says:

      EXACTLY! “Make the most noise at the right time.”

      He’s not afraid to label the behaviour. But he knows that doing so would take the spotlight off where it should be aimed right now. CNN and the other media would be running nonstop “breaking news” stories for the next 5 months about Obama calling you know who that word. That would be the whole story. And there is only one person who would benefit from that.

      As for writing his book himself, I don’t think he’s shading his wife at all. Clearly crafting every word himself is deeply important to him and he’s willing to put the time in. Using a ghostwriter worked for her. Neither approach is right or wrong. And I suspect that there is also strategy at play in terms of timing of these projects hitting the market.

    • lucy2 says:

      I fully agree. I’m sure he’s laying out what he wants to say during the big push for the Biden campaign, and is too smart and strategic to mess it up now by getting angry.

      But my God, he has every right to be angry.

  10. girl_ninja says:

    Now I want a Pelaton.

    • EMF999 says:

      Me too!! I’ve just given away my elliptical aka clothes hanger. My husband would kill me if I bought a Pelaton but there’s an empty space in my home office…

    • Imogene says:

      I just got one a week ago (received it a week ago, purchased a month or so ago) and it is the bestttt thing ever. If you think you will use it, the money is totally worth it for me.

    • msmlnp says:

      I got one in April, Im in love with it. Great instructors, quality. I’m the person who had the treadmill clothes hanger a few years ago too. Now I don’t think I’m ever going back to the gym .

  11. LoMi says:

    It’s no secret Michelle had a collaborator – she refers to her in the acknowledgements. Sarah Corbett of the NYT – amazing writer. She also helped Amanda Lindhout with A House In The Sky. Nothing wrong with a collaborator – it’s celebrities who pretend they’ve written something all by themselves that make me roll my eyes. If Barack is taking so long with it, he is probably writing most of it himself.

    • Alyse says:

      Agreed, in fact I always assume if a celebrity has written a book (no matter how smart they are) there’s usually a ghost writer involved (maybe to different amounts)
      Unless writing the book is their only job, I don’t think they’d possibly have the time.

  12. Abby says:

    I think his pulled punches are totally understandable. Obbbbbbbviously not the same thing, but I’m going through a divorce right now + dealing with narc parents for years and years ……the abuse does make you very cautious about engaging or going toe to toe. And it teaches one to play the long game and anticipate every possible reaction …he’s playing the long game. He wants to support Biden and not do anything whatsoever controversial to possibly be responsible for tanking a Biden campaign. It’s not fair to have to measure ones words against as*holes that have no filter but he’s wise to play it safe …for now. Post Trump, we might get an earful.

    As for the ghostwriter comment, it came off a little bitter?!!!!! Or maybe just competitive.

  13. Vava says:

    I wish I was on Obama’s late night mailing list!

    • MoP says:

      I found that ghostwriting comment… odd. I can’t imagine he even would be that petty about his awesome wife, when he’s taken the high road with the current idiot in charge. Anyway… sorry about your divorce, been there and I am hoping you’re doing OK.

      • Olivia says:

        I think he probably means it in the good natured sarcastic way he compliments her sometimes. Like i’m the idiot doing this the hard way she always does everything better/smarter. It might have gotten lost in print. He’s pretty much universally deferential/respectful to Michelle.

  14. Doodle says:

    I think with all the scrutiny he has faced with everything, if he had a ghost writer people would attack him for it (even though they shouldn’t). Michelle was smart to get a ghost writer and sadly I think he’s being smart to attempt it himself. He couldn’t even be born in the country he lead without people doubting him ffs.

  15. MarcelMarcel says:

    Barack, Michelle and their daughters were targets of racist commentary when he was President. (As an Australian) I saw it in mainstream media outlets, fringe right wing commentary & social media.
    Trump uses dog whistles to incite racially charged violence against Black Americans.
    I respect Barack’s right to publicly discuss a violent fascist however he sees fit. I hope the Obamas continue to be safe & pursue their aspirations (political or otherwise).

  16. Miss V says:

    Goodness, gracious… I miss this man in office so much, it hurts.

  17. Leigh says:

    It’s understandable that he doesn’t want a ghost writer. I think people are forgetting that he previously wrote two great books. Having someone else write it would feel inauthentic. Also understandable that Michelle hired a collaborator if that’s what she was inclined to do. God I miss them….

    • lucy2 says:

      I read Dreams From My Father and the Audacity of Hope – both were excellent. He also has a children’s book too.

  18. Darby says:

    I wonder what his Peloton name is? I bought a Peloton bike two months ago and I LOVE it! Totally obsessed. Worth the money for sure. Their app is amazing with so many different types of (equipment free) workouts too.

    • Imogene says:

      I bet his leaderboard name has something to do with being a dad of 2 girls. I will be watching for both he and Michelle from now on. I wonder who his favorite instructor is…

  19. jferber says:

    President Obama has the patience of a saint and though it’s unjust to him and our country, I believe he does right for our unworthy times to keep a low-key profile. The current faux-president used Mr. Obama to race-bait the deplorables of a nation to “win” the election. This next election must be a referendum on the trump itself displayed in all its unworthiness and isolation without being in reach of the cudgels (Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton) he used to stir up hatred, ignorance and backlash. This evil time will pass, I pray. And moreover, I will VOTE to get this clown out of office.

  20. Riley says:

    He’s never going to lower himself to Trump’s level. Just not who he is.

  21. Jaded says:

    Obama knows that being very targeted, low-key and precise in his comments about Trump makes Trump crazy. It brings out his insane jealousy and resentment while Obama just sits back toying with him like a cat with a mouse. He feeds out just enough rope to allow Trump to hang himself again and again. He’s a smart man who knows when and how to reveal just enough to goad Trump into feeling like he has the sword of Damocles hanging over him, and that’s when the public rage-tweeting and name-calling starts.

  22. Veronica S. says:

    He’s not calling it racist out loud because he knows it’ll give the right wing a way to redirect their ire and distract from the issues at hand, creating another racist bogeyman to stoke white fears. Obama is protected by Secret Service. Most black Americans are not. I think he’s smart enough to see the risk there, and he definitely knows how to play the political game.

  23. JoanK says:

    I think Obama is holding his fire. He doesn’t want to get into a full pitched battle yet. This is Biden’s election campaign after all and there is a long way to go until November.

    My hope is that when the election campaign starts in earnest, we will enjoy some real Obama soundbites, of which he is the absolute master.

  24. Meredith says:

    My new mission in life is to find out his peloton handle.

  25. Bread and Circuses says:

    Trump would like nothing better than a black man or a woman to fight with, because he’s good in the gutter with his dog-whistle.

    Obama knows starting a public fight with Trump would give Cheetolini fuel to use. So he’s not giving him any.

    And neither is Joe Biden. Trump never had much repertoire beyond insults, and he can’t get anything to stick to Joe.