A Promised Land by Barack Obama


2008 Topps Barack Obama

There are a lot of Americans who HATE Barack Obama. My neighbor called him the worst president in his lifetime, making sure to emphasize that that includes Richard Nixon. Maybe he doesn’t believe that Obama’s choices saved the auto industry, saved the banking industry, staved off an even worse economic depression, saw the reduction of troops in wars overseas, decreased the number of uninsured Americans, and saw the greatest stretch of job growth in American history. Maybe he wanted to continue to see military involvement in Iraq more than he wanted to see Obama greenlight the Navy Seals to pursue bin Laden. Maybe he doesn’t believe the head of the EPA should believe in climate change and was against Obama joining the Paris Agreement. Maybe he thought there was no need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Maybe he believes that there was no need to reduce nuclear armaments.

Or maybe he’s just racist.

Sure, some people hate Obama. But for me, listening to MY president read his book is like coming in from the cold to drink a cup of warm cocoa under a blanket by a fire with my dogs sleeping peacefully on either side of me with their heads in my lap.

I would recommend the audiobook for a couple more reasons, too. In addition to his smooth, calm voice, he does some wonderful impressions of world leaders and members of his staff, accents and all. Also, it’s a long book, and at times can get bogged down in boring details. I found it easier to zone out and move the story along than I think it would have been to slog through pages reading.

Mostly it was a good reminder of his 2008 campaign and and his first term. It included some insight into his family and a glimpse of the daily life of the President. And it was a reminder of how Trump stepped into the political conversation. (I remember listening to Jon Mecham’s biography of George H.W. Bush Destiny and Power where he says Trump called Bush’s team out of the blue and offered to be Bush’s vice president, an offer Bush found odd.)

It was also a reminder how careful Obama knew he needed to be as the first African-American President. Over and over he points out times he had to scold or even suspend members of his campaign staff for negative attacks, times he had to ensure ethical behavior, times he knew he had to be absolutely above reproach. As he pointed out in 2020, if he had a Chinese bank account he would immediately have been dubbed “Beijing Barry.”

Two things stuck out for me at the end of the book. The first was Michelle talking about the bitherism movement Trump was spurring. When Barack tried to minimize it and considered it ridiculous, Michelle told him that people don’t know it’s just a game. She pointed out that there are hundreds of people out there with guns who believe every word beiing said.

The second was a quote from Obama about wanting to move on from distractions and get down to real progress. He said, “we’re not going to be able to do that if we just make things up and pretend facts are not fact.”

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