In his new treatise, A Promised Land, former President Barack Obama revealed his feelings about the divisions that dominate the country today, the extreme political opposition he endured during his presidency, and the challenges he faced in his personal life . He discussed these things and other facets of the 44th President in an open, hour-long prime-time interview on BET hosted by CBS This Morning & # 39; s Gayle King on Tuesday evening (Nov. 17). The conversation included aspects of interviews with King on CBS Sunday Morning and with Scott Pelley for 60 minutes.
"One of the things I'm trying to do is describe how early this obstructive attitude set in," Obama said, recalling people like Senator Mitch McConnell, who vowed to appoint him president for a term shortly after his first inauguration. “It started on the first day because we were trying to get the Restoration Act, the stimulus package, through, people lost their jobs, lost their homes, and the economy collapsed.
"At the time I thought the Republicans weren't going to agree on all things," he continued. “But all economists agree that we need that. They'll work together here and we didn't get any. "
Although the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed, it wasn't the last time he came across Rancor against his agenda. As he began putting the pieces of the Affordable Care Act together when he turned to Congress, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson infamously shouted "You are lying" and caused a second noticeable silence. Obama admits his first reaction was to respond directly to Wilson while staying cool.
"My initial instinct is to let me go down and hit this guy on the head," Obama said, smiling at what many at the time saw as a blunt sign of disrespect for the president. "What is he thinking? And instead I just said, "That's not true," and just kept walking.
"I think by then I realized that expectation of normal give and take of politics, a set of rules and decency, and a basic level of mutual respect has collapsed," he said.
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But while Obama tried to adjust to his new job, his family also tried to get used to living as a First Family life under a microscope. Obama has previously said that former first lady Michelle Obama was reluctant to run for president because both he and his family needed to make a commitment. However, once they got to the White House, they began to see the realities of their new surroundings.
"There's this strange isolation that you're starting to feel," he said.
"Did you like that feeling?" Asked King.
"No. I don't think you will ever get used to it," Obama replied. He confessed that there were indeed times when he missed being a normal father, despite trying to be as present as possible .
"I have probably suffered more from being unable to do some of the common things I did before we got to the White House," he said. “I came in from a security briefing in the Situation Room reading about terrorist threats and this and that. Then I sit down and Malia and Sasha talk about, 'Oh, that boy was so stupid. "You know, it takes you out of you and your head and reminds you of what's good in the world."
Take a step back
While Michelle Obama remains hugely popular after her husband's presidency and the thoughts that she is running for the presidency still pop up in certain circles, the former president said she could finally breathe out after her eight years.
"When the presidency was over, two things happened," Obama said. “One was objective; I just had more time. Second, she was able to let go of the stress, just having the feeling, "I have to do everything right all the time." I am being watched all the time. "
The nation's expectations of Obama were high, much of it based on the idea that he, as the first African American president, had somehow made profound changes in America. It was an idea of an America that was perhaps more ambitious than many should have imagined.
"Lots of people, just as they expected," now we are in a post-racial America because we elected a black president. "I think a lot of people expected us to have this young, progressive president and now all of a sudden we're going to eradicate inequality and we're going to have universal health care right away and we're going to have laws on climate change, immigration reform and criminal justice reform" and all the things I wanted to get done.
“But I understood very early on that the federal government, headed by the President, is an ocean liner, not a speedboat. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, the work you have done can be considered good and helpful. But at the time it can feel like, "Wow, this isn't going fast enough."
When King Obama asked Obama to remember the issue of race in the nation and to consider whether things are going worse today than when Obama was President, he takes time to be thoughtful.
"I think it was always naive to think that racism just disappeared because of my choice," he said. "I didn't believe that back then, I certainly don't believe that now. And what is obvious is that I had a certain backlash when I was chosen.
"Well, what I'm going to say is that under our current President – the outgoing President – the kind of rhetoric he used sometimes came from the White House, and then obviously the record of the tragedy we had with George Floyd and Breonna saw Taylor, all of which exposed the underlying issues that need to be addressed and that we as a nation never fully anticipated. "
Barack Obama: A Promised Land was published by the Crown Publishing Group on November 17th.