Trump hangs over Obama’s memoir like an onrushing train


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(CNN)Around the fifth anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, in late spring of 2016, President Barack Obama did an interview with CNN. Obama was seated at the head of the long conference room table in the White House Situation Room and after I asked the President a number of questions about his decision to authorize that operation, I changed direction. I asked: “Donald Trump. What are your thoughts, if he was to be sitting in this chair, about how he would be handling these decisions?”

Obama replied, “Well, I don’t have those thoughts. Because I don’t expect that to happen.”
Trump wasn’t yet his party’s official nominee, and even after he was, a lot of folks didn’t expect that to happen. And then, of course, it did.
Trump hangs over Obama’s moving, beautifully written memoir of his first three years in office like an onrushing train that both the reader and author know is hurtling down the tracks to collide with what Obama hoped to achieve. In Obama’s own words, he was striving to “see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed” and to continue the work-in-progress of making a more perfect, racially equitable “promised land” that has already produced “Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers…Jackie Robinson…Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan, Billie Holliday…Lincoln at Gettysburg.”
“A Promised Land,” a copy of which was obtained by CNN, is a tome of more than 700 pages that covers Obama’s early political career as Illinois state senator, time as a junior US senator and his at-first seemingly quixotic run for the presidency — where he faced Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and then Sen. John McCain in the general election.
Obama describes Sarah Palin, McCain’s 2008 running mate, as a sort of proto-Trump who publicly accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” Meanwhile, Palin presented herself as a “real American” yet “on just about every subject relevant to governing the country she had absolutely no idea what she was talking about…like a kid trying to bluff her way through a test for which she had failed to study.” Obama goes on to note that Palin’s “incoherence didn’t matter to the vast majority of Republicans…a sign of things to come.”
Indeed. It was, of course, Trump who put into play repeatedly the lie — concocted to try to invalidate Obama’s presidency — that he wasn’t American, wasn’t born in the US (and might even be a secret Muslim). As Obama explains of Trump, “For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he promised an elixir for their racial anxiety.”

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