What makes Obama a good leader
Who writes stays. Those who write memoirs want to at least have a say in how they are remembered. This is no different with Barack Obama's résumé of his first three years in the White House.
And like almost all memoirs of politicians, Obama's opus (the now published first volume alone comprises about 1000 pages) is primarily not just a personal description of the events, but at the same time a justification of one's own actions, decisions and omissions, which in turn is theirs - of course positive - should serve historical classification. See above.
Obama is trying a kind of intellectual balancing act. On the one hand, he admits quite self-critically that he ultimately did not get through with his central election promise of "change", from change to a more just society. America's society, or even Washington's political decision-making processes, have not fundamentally changed for the better during his presidency.
Not at all, after all, as Obama noted at the beginning of his memoirs, "someone has been appointed as my successor who embodied in everything the exact opposite of what we stood for". Donald Trump and the American democracy crisis he conjured up cast a shadow over Obama's presidency.
It doesn't work without pathos
On the other hand, he tries to show that he has not failed in any way. He understands everyone, he writes, "who believe it is time to dispose of the myth" - the myth that America is the country whose reasons of state are the promise of equality, justice and democratic participation.
Not without pathos, to which the sober-thinking man tends again and again, he writes: "However, I can say with certainty that I am not yet ready to give up America's possibility - not only for the sake of future generations of Americans, but for the sake of it for the sake of all of humanity. "
But first and foremost, Obama reports on the events himself. Briefly on his multicultural youth: the child of a Kenyan and a white man from Kansas, grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii. His studies in New York and Harvard, his marriage to Michelle, his work as a community organizer in Chicago, finally a meteoric rise from parliamentarian in the American provinces to the Senate in Washington to the White House, all within a good decade.
Then came the great struggles of his first term. Trying to avert the collapse of the American economy after the 2008 financial crisis. The struggle for a multi-billion dollar economic stimulus plan (which looks almost modest compared to the anti-corona measures) and the relentless resistance of the Republicans to it. The stress test for the banks that his government is developing, the rescue package for the auto industry, which is about to collapse.
The futile efforts to create a climate law that also fails because of resistance from within our own ranks. He shifts to ordinances (which his successor then contradicted). The struggle for health care reform that is passing Congress after almost infinite concessions. The attempt to dissolve the prison camp in Guantanamo, which in the end is also foiled by its own people.
The analysis of the health reform goes back to 1909
Foreign policy takes up a lot of space, his travels to the Middle East, Russia, Africa, and Asia. Obama always replies implicitly to the allegations that have been made to him - not only by the Republican side. For example, that under his aegis, the USA abandoned its claim to leadership in the world, that he acted hesitantly and not decisively, and that his foreign policy, guided by noble claims, did not do justice to them.
For example, he describes in minute detail why his decision about the US involvement in Afghanistan dragged on for months (whereby his deputy at the time, Joe Biden, advised him not to be "blocked" by the generals). He explains why it has been and is in the interests of the United States "to be more closely bound by a range of international laws, regulations and standards than any superpower in history."
What is being criticized is obvious: the erratic, ruthless America-First policy of the current incumbent. In general, the outline of his methodically reflected political decisions reads like the antithesis to the erratic ad hoc approach of his successor.
Right at the beginning of his notes, Obama wrote that he wanted to provide an "honest account" of his time in office. Which, hardly surprising in the case of a university lecturer, leads to sometimes more academic presentations of the respective topic.
When he writes about his trips abroad, he likes to give a short co-presentation on the historical situation of the country he is visiting. And he opens his remarks on health reform with a summary of the efforts to improve the US health system since President Theodore Roosevelt (who left office in 1909).
In one way, however, Obama is getting personal. He wants, as he writes, "to give an impression of what it feels like to be President of the United States". That includes the decisions in office - and his private life. He grants an insight into that, well dosed. Especially what life in the White House meant to him, his wife and family.
"That's it, Barack," demanded Michelle
At the beginning of his term of office, for example, his press spokesman Robert Gibbs drove the nonsense out of his head that he could afford private excursions unnoticed by the media crowd. He "just patted me on the back," writes Obama resignedly, "and returned to his office while I mumbled something grimly."
Almost astonished, the father of two girls registers that the two, Malia and Sasha, are not just coping with the move to Washington. Rather, they seem to be enjoying their lives in the White House and, contrary to the worried father's fears, are growing up pretty carefree.
Obama touches on the burdens that his office entails for his wife. She was against him running, but she is loyal to his decision, even though she told him when he ran for the US Senate: "That’s it, Barack. One last time." When he did indeed win the presidential election, "the prospect of solitude fell like a cloud over them."
Again and again, as can be clearly seen from the lines, the first black first lady struggles with hints of depression or at least deep dejection. And she is torn between her duties as a mother, the role of a first lady and her own claim to "break up clichés about the position of women", which is difficult to reconcile with traditional ideas at least.
Until she moved to the White House, she was always at work, even if, as Obama admits, she skipped career opportunities out of consideration for the family.
Again and again, with a light hand, Obama interweaves exhaustively detailed representations of his official business with such personal reminiscences. The memoirs should be really politically explosive on one point: his settlement with the Republicans, whose leaders he blames all - and not just Trump - for the dangerous polarization of the country.
He has long viewed the Republicans as a problem
On the one hand there is this BirtherCampaign that Trump instigated in 2011, long before he entered politics. It is the baseless accusation that Obama was not born in the USA and therefore has no right to the office of president. Obama clearly sees the racist core of the message: that a black man has no business in the White House, "as if my opponents believed that the natural order of things would be dissolved".
But it's not just Trump. Even in the nomination of the then governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, Obama sees a course of action. "It seemed like with Palin, the dark ghosts that had long lived a shadowy existence on the fringes of the Republican Party - xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, aversion to blacks and browns - found their way into the center of the party. "
Obama also accuses the soon emerging tea party movement of racist resentment. She "demonized him and thus sent an unmistakable message to all Republican officials: In opposition to my government, the conventional rules no longer applied."
And then there is the obstructionist strategy of the top Republican Party leaders from day one of his tenure, guided by then Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell: "The refusal to cooperate with me or members of my government, under any circumstances, on any subject, or not of the consequences for the country ". They, too, writes Obama, are "completely indifferent to the truth of what they say".
What makes it different from Trump? Only that the latter lies even more brazen. McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader today. That suggests little good for the Biden era.
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