Barack Obama: ‘My very presence in the White House triggered a deep-seated panic’

Obama Meets Trump

Barack Obama’s long-gestating memoir, A Promised Land, is finally coming out on November 17th. I was a little bit mad that he didn’t organize his promotional book tour for just before the election, but now I can see that Obama wanted to devote himself full time to the Biden campaign in the final weeks of the election. Anyway, with the release date coming up, the embargo on reviews has finally been lifted, and many outlets have summaries and excerpts. This is probably just the first of many posts about Barry’s book! Some highlights, from this CNN piece:

He sees Trump & Trumpism as a racist reaction to his existence: “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. 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 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 doubts whether John McCain would have chosen Palin if he had a do-over: Obama writes that he “wonder(s) sometimes” about whether 2008 Republican nominee John McCain would still have picked Palin if he had known “her spectacular rise and her validation as a candidate would provide a template for future politicians, shifting his party’s center and the country’s politics overall in a direction he abhorred…I’d like to think that given the chance to do it over again, he might have chosen differently. I believe he really did put his country first.”

The Birther Movement: Trump’s antics were seen initially in the White House as a joke. But Obama writes he came to regard Trump’s media ubiquity and characteristic shamelessness as merely an exaggerated version of the Republican Party’s attempts to appeal to White Americans’ anxieties about the first Black president — a sentiment he said “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.”

He doesn’t see a huge difference between Trump & the current GOP: Trump, who Obama said phoned the White House in 2010 to offer his assistance helping plug an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (he was turned down), had determined that saying or behaving in ways previously seen as distasteful or unacceptable now earned him constant media attention. “In that sense, there wasn’t much difference between Trump and Boehner or McConnell. They, too, understood that it didn’t matter whether what they said was true. In fact, the only difference between Trump’s style of politics and theirs was Trump’s lack of inhibition.”

[From CNN]

I wondered how Obama would discuss… all of this, really. I don’t think he’s pulling his punches, I just think this is who he is – the intellectual, the law professor who can often step outside of himself and coldly assess what’s happening around him. There is also a deep well of anger and anguish inside of Obama at Trump and the Republicans for what they’ve done to him, to his family and to the country. But he also absorbs it and understands that white America is what allows for this sh-t. Trump, McConnell and the entire GOP wouldn’t exist in this cruel, racist, vindictive form if white America would stop supporting them and rewarding them for it. And he’s totally right about Sarah Palin too. She was the proto-Trump. She was Pandora.

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32 Responses to “Barack Obama: ‘My very presence in the White House triggered a deep-seated panic’”

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  1. Darla says:

    Yes, Palin was the proto-Trump and I remember being so outraged at the things she said. Stating that President Obama was “Paling around with terrorists” for instance. That was so outrageously racist. It really tainted McCain for me. He may have come to regret it, I don’t know. How can we know? Watch how his crazy daughter who married a racist btw, will go nuts about this.

    Yes Trump was white America’s revenge for a black President. Without the twin evils of racism and misogyny, Hillary would have been President of course. It had ZERO to do with her going to Wisconsin to hold white people’s hands. Those kind of white people would rather kill her than talk to her.

    • Esmom says:

      When she gave her first speech as VP candidate, my jaw was literally on the floor at her audacious disrespect for Obama, packaged in that folksy wink-wink persona. I was like “who tf does this bitch think she is?” I honestly thought she was an aberration, I had no idea she was just the beginning of the hellscape we find ourselves in.

      I love hearing Obama’s takes on this era. As always, he nails it. I just wish someone, anyone, knew of an effective way to begin beating this sh^t back, because it’s consuming way too much of the oxygen in our collective consciousness.

    • Noodle says:

      @darla, shortly after Trump’s election I was chatting with my dad, who is very conservative, but very logical and can discuss issues without getting heated or defensive. I was sharing with him that a lot of my friends and colleagues, many of whom were BIPOC, were worried about Trump’s racism and feeling thrown out in the middle of the ocean without anyone to help them or anyone who represented them. My dad, who is an older white man and has held executive positions within his workplace and community, said (and I remember this so clearly), “Well, I haven’t had anyone represent me for 8 years.” Yes, Dad, clearly, all of the political sphere failed to represent you for the last 8 years. There were NO powerful white men in Sacramento or Washington, who represented you while Obama was President. It grieved me then, and it grieves me now, to know this about my dad.

      • Darla says:

        I’m so sorry Noodle. I really understand.

      • Silent Star says:

        @Noodle, I hear ya. My 80+ year old dad is a sweet man, never said a racist thing in his life, and I like to think that he and my mom raised us to be open minded and kind.

        However I was appalled to learn that all these years he had really only been hiding in a protected cocoon of white male priviliege, when during a discussion about indigenous Canadians he refused to accept the atrocities of the residential schools and that the government had a plan to eradicate them by assimilation. He genuinely thought the schools were there to “help” them. He actually got mad at me to the point of shaking and criticised the college I was learning this from.

        I realized that his lack of outward racism was not from a genuine active respect for POC, but because he had the privilege of being able to ignore the hard truths, avoid racial conflict, and appear un-racist by standing behind a wall of “politeness” (never having said a racist thing in his life). He had really just been hiding from it all, not taking any responsibility or holding anyone accountable.

        It was shocking and sad to me. I love my dad but it makes me so resentful toward him and Old White Men, that they got to live their whole lives sheltered from oppression, with the whole world and all its people and systems built to serve them and make their lives easy.

      • Noodle says:

        @darla, thank you. It just steels me to be a voice for others with no voice. I’m a teacher of teachers and one of my core priorities is introducing anti-racist ideas into my curriculum, then discussing them in rational, research-based forums. If my teachers can then go to classrooms and do the same, the ripple will be felt.

        @silent star, I can 100% relate to your statement here. It’s hard to see our parents as they really are, especially when they’ve shown themselves to be kind and open-minded all along. I’m sure my dad is aggrieved that my sister and I are both fairly liberal, but he sent us to good schools and colleges, and frankly, they taught us to think for ourselves. My vision of the world is so different from my dads, and mostly because of what I choose to digest in terms of information or experience. It’s just sad, honestly, to know my dad is harboring these thoughts and not speaking them. My older daughter is going through a period of transitioning sexual identity and she’s asked me several times about Grandpa’s views on being homosexual or lesbian. I honestly didn’t know what to tell her (he and I have never talked about it) and I know it broke her heart that she might not be accepted by him.

      • Salted Watermelon says:

        8 whole years? However did he survive?

        Granted, these are the 2019 numbers, but… 88% of people serving in Congress were white, and 86% were men. And this is the most diverse Congress we’ve ever had.

  2. Millennial says:

    I agree. When I step back and assess where we are today, I really think a lot of it is “whitelash” against Obama’s presidency. It’s sad that it’s part of his legacy now. I really wonder how history will interpret this era.

    I think it’s also mixed in with men feeling emasculated by the rise of women, so they do what they can to re-assert their dominance over anyone they think they are better than. And then their (mostly white) wives and mothers prop them up.

    Basically other people got power, white men got scared, and now we have the modern day GOP.

    • Myra says:

      I also agree with this assessment. Although it was clear that there was a steady rise in right wing ideologies around the same time (and this is a global phenomenon), trumpism itself is the direct result of the Obama presidency.

      Racism is woven in the fabric of society itself and everyday life is centered on the idea of white supremacy in the same way that we are governed by patriarchy. Whether a person acknowledges their individual bias is besides the point, any attempt to dismantle white dominance is seen as an assault on the person. The automatic response is therefore to fight against such dismantlement, even if the person doesn’t personally benefit (economically, socially) from that fight.

      I can see how such people would view someone like Obama, a well-spoken, educated and charismatic black man. It will shatter all notions of their own superiority over him. People like that will have no idea why they don’t like him and will go as far as calling him arrogant, ‘uppity’. It explains why he was also held to a much higher standard than anyone else in that position, especially as we could see how the bar was significantly lowered for Trump.

      • MsIam says:

        I think it also put to lie that racist b.s. that people like Jared Kushner put out, that black people have to “want to succeed” or whatever crap he mumbled. M*therf*cker please! You would be hard pressed to find anyone as prepared and accomplished as Obama was and yet that still wasn’t good enough. It will take more than a couple of election cycles to fix this if ever.

      • Myra says:

        Exactly. I’m happy that a lot of people are learning more about being actively anti-racist but it will take a long time to get where we need to be. We’ve also learnt that the fight is constant, it never stops. We can all easily fall back into fascism as the last four years have shown. It’s achieving and maintaining a more equal and just society that is hard.

      • Grumpy says:

        This line from Sarah Kendzior’s Hiding in Plain Sight hits the nail on the head ” Birtherism was never about where Barack Obama came from. It was about where he was allowed to go”.
        A very important book of our times.

  3. Aang says:

    That was evident in 2010 with the rise of tea baggers. Racism is who America is and the Obama presidency made that crystal clear.

  4. Izzy says:

    A Black man in the White House (wearing a tan suit, the horror!) triggered this tsunami of hatred that nearly consumed our country.

  5. Cassandra says:

    I’ve always viewed Palin as a symptom of a much larger disease. If it hadn’t been her someone else from the tea party would have gotten the national attention.

    But yeah, Obama is 100% correct. Trump is very much a reaction to his presidency.

    I remember unfriending a girl I went to high school with in 2008 because she wrote that Obama was the (actual!!) Antichrist on her Facebook profile. She’s well off and well educated but racism is a heck of a drug.

  6. Becks1 says:

    I absolutely think that Trump won as a backlash to Obama. I think if he ran in 2016 and Chuck Schumer or Adam Schiff had been president for the preceding 8 years, he likely would not have won. But then again, as long as we had Palin, the wave of racism and anti-intellectualism would have begun anyway.

  7. SJ Knows says:

    I miss him so much.
    So well spoken and smart!

    Remember all the pics of him and Biden together at the WH?
    Imagine that, a POTUS and a VP that found common ground and worked as a team to actually get things done, doing their job.

    Hurry up 1/20/2021

  8. Busyann says:

    That election with McCain and Palin was my first where I was old enough to vote, but not weathered enough to know what the eff was going on. I knew Palin was an idiot and the Tea Party stuff seemed dangerous, but I still had this naievete about race in our country. Looking back, I 100% agree with Obama…she was the start of this and it kind of seemed to go away a bit, but Trump has made it so in your face now, it’s really sad. People dont feel like they have to hide their klan tendencies and it seems like more and more people are falling in line with that racist thinking and just using Trump’s economy as a more palatable excuse to support him. No, 55% Karen, you don’t give a f$%& about having an extra $100 per paycheck, you’re just saying that, but you really want to make sure blacks and browns, and everyone else not like you, know and stay in their place.

    What I can’t figure out is whether or not the GOP is truly embracing this racism as part of their platform or just riding the coattails of Trump’s deplorable base.

    • Esmom says:

      I think by riding his coattails, they are truly embracing his deplorable base. They now know this is how to get the votes. The only way they can win elections other than by the active suppression they’ve already been doing is to turn out that base. The Dems do outnumber the Republicans in this country, but as the election shows, when turnout is high they can get pretty close. I don’t think it’s sustainable, though, so they will resort to more desperate tactics, I’m sure.

    • Midnight@theOasis says:

      You can trace the use of this strategy back to Barry Goldwater. Nixon fine tuned it into the “Southern strategy” and the GOP has used it effectively every since to use racism as a wedge to deliver them power and votes. I wish white people would truly open their minds and eyes and realize what black people in America have long understood: Donald Trump is not an aberration, he’s a mirror. He’s a reflection of the real America and that ugliness we see in him is America. The majority of white men AND white women voted for Donald Trump. Racism and misogyny are the twins that America has to confront and deal with or it will go the way of every other empire.

      • Angelica Schuyler says:

        @Midnight@theOasis You have stated this so eloquently, and succinctly. I may have to quote you next time I’m having a conversion about this topic because I could not have said it better myself.

      • MsIam says:

        For the life of me what I cannot understand is the black people in the GOP that are on board with this too. I wonder how the Robert Johnson’s and the Candace Owens felt looking at the Nazi and Confederate flags flying during Trump’s going away parade on Saturday? Or Jewish supporters? It’s my understanding that the number of blacks voting for Trump actually increased this time. So I guess self-hatred is one of the first cousins of the misogyny and racism twins.

  9. Seraphina says:

    I can see Russia from my house!!!! Sorry, I had to say that. It used to drive someone I knew crazy because he was a die hard republican and was furious they made fun of Palin.
    On a serious note, Damn I miss President Obama. My mouth was open as I read the excerpts. I am def going to buy the book. I like how he is “pulling punches”. Between this and the BRF upset over The Crown, plenty of entertainment to go around.

  10. Desdemona says:

    “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. ” _ THIS…. This triggered everything, The white supremacists (there are many more than one could think of) couldn’t handle having a black president. They couldn’t see past the colour of his skin and see that he was a truly good president to the country. I wonder how my country is going to react after being governed by an Indian ( from Goa) as Prime Minister. I like to think that we don’t have so many white supremacists as you do. Hope I’m right, though right wing racist parties are gaining strength…
    The future will tell…

    • Yup, Me says:

      You are probably wrong. Your country absolutely does have as many white supremacists (percentage wise), they may just be better at disguising it or it’s so deep seated that the way it shows itself is less overt (which makes it harder to fight).

      Check out what the Black and Brown folks say about it and believe them.

  11. Ann says:

    I feel pretty validated to see Obama agrees with my assessment about Sarah Palin. I had these same feelings back then when I was volunteering for John McCain’s campaign. The tea party bs was starting and suddenly people I knew all throughout college felt comfortable telling me how much they hate gay people and how all illegal immigrants should be rounded up and shot. I wanted no part of it so I left the party.

    I am positive McCain regrets that choice but unfortunately it’s too late now. McCain had a huge and active hand in creating the monster that is currently the GOP.

    • lanne says:

      He should have chosen Joe Lieberman like he wanted to. They probably would have won the Presidency then over Obama. Sarah pailin is what happens when you appease people you do not fundamentally respect. It blows up in your face. This is the woman who quit as governor because she wanted to “be famous.”

      The fact that 71 million people voted for Trump tells me we need to put the lie that America is a meritocracy to bed once and for all. For many white people in the US, white trumps merit every time–we saw that with Obama, with Hillary, and even with Kamala. White supremecy is more important than merit. What scares the shit out of me is that 70 million people will kill our democracy if they can to prove it. We have Nazi Germany embedded in the middle of the USA like a cancer, and all it will take is a truly smart and charismatic leader for that cancer to mestaticize. Thank the Lord that Trump is an idiot, but what rough beast, his hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

  12. GuestwithCat says:

    I think what’s also a factor in all of this is Islamophobia. Had he been Barry Jones and not Barrack Hussein Obama, things would have gone a few degrees less crazy over him. I mean haters were going to hate no matter what. But this was extra tinder on the fire.

    And he was, at times, I think calculated in calling attention to how he was different culturally as well as racially. For example when he spoke of being moved by the beauty of the Muslim call to prayer. And remember he did so at a time when the nation was on edge about everything Muslim (and still are).

    Having lived for a time in Indonesia, he had the perspective to know that the Muslim call to prayer is spiritual and nothing to fear. I think he meant to put some of us at ease about Muslims with his comments. If the President of the US with all the access to intelligence reports and who lived in a majority Muslim country can say that, then maybe we can relax a little, right? Also I am sure he wanted to extend some sign of kinship to beleaguered Muslims in America. Unfortunately, I think he gave people too much credit in their ability to expand their perspectives beyond the Fox News one.

    The vast majority of Americans who have never left the country or who carefully avoid immigrant neighborhoods only know of Muslims as crazy radical jihadists whose photos aired over tv incessantly in the aftermath of 9-11. And then there were those people like Rush Limbaugh and Fox shouting down his voice and amping up the fear.

    As a biracial person myself, I noticed a strange sort of tension in him and suspected he had some possibly unacknowledged rage from always being an outsider no matter who he was among. Raised in a white family but still generally identified by his black features. An organizer and activist in black communities who at times commented he might not be black enough due to being raised by a white family.

    But now hearing for the first time he had to send Joe Biden in because some of the Republicans were too racist and Islamophobic to work effectively with him, I realize I was projecting too much of my own struggles on him to explain that tension I sensed. No it was plainer than that: he was rightfully pissed that plain old anti black racism flavored with islamophobia was keeping him from directly doing his job among educated people who should have known better.

    He had to put his own feelings and ideals aside for the good of our country and take pragmatic steps to get the work done. So he sent Joe in his place among them.

    That’s the hard part being the first. You can’t always reap the rewards yourself but sometimes have to be content you’re laying the groundwork for the next person to break the next set of barriers.

    Someday like perhaps a President Kamala Harris is going to tell racist Republicans they have to deal with her or answer to the American people for obstructing the work we elected her to do for us.

    Let us not forget white people did vote for him. And they just voted for Joe and Kamala. And they just marched in the streets for Black Lives Matters. We are stronger together and there’s at least a few more million of all of us together than there are of those Magats. We are going to keep teaching, preaching, running for office and voting. Keep getting on people to vote and support the candidates that really represent us.

    • Darla says:

      There are a few million more of us. There’s a lot of talk about white women, but I wish people would remember who was part of the Obama Coalition, not white women, but specifically, SINGLE white women. And there are more and more single white women every year. We do form a part of what can be a very powerful coalition, we just have to believe in it and fight for it. Together, there are more of us than of them. But it’s always going to be a struggle. I realized that with the rise of the tea party. I was naïve enough in 2008 to believe the election of our first black President meant an earth-shattering progress that would just keep proceeding. I was so stupid. I see that now. the fight is constant. It never ends. Keep your boots on because the other side surely will.

  13. emu says:

    Oh I can’t wait to read this. It has been such a terrible step back in progress after Obama left office and Trump took over. Hopefully it is just a hiccup. People really did freak out so much that a black man was in the white house. So much so that it enabled Palin and Trump. Ugh. Can’t wait to forget about Trump

  14. Mee says:

    Plain wasn’t the first, W. Bush was. He wheelbarrowed stupidity into the WH. Palin just hoped on board. That’s why Steve Schmidt and his Lincoln Project can get f**ked. He brought us both of those idiots.
    Anyway, from day 1 of Obama’s presidency, I would read the comments and the vile, racist, demeaning things people would say would make you put them into a 5150 for sociopathic behavior. I knew then, this is what this country is.