Friday, December 14, 2018

Obama: An Oral History


Warning: Some of this review is also venting about certain fucking idiots within our current government. I might drop a few f-bombs. #SorryI'mNotSorry.

Rating: 5 Stars


I really miss having an adult in the White House.

Right up front, I am not debating politics with anyone over this review. I really like President Obama, though I did not agree with him on everything. Personally, I feel like he took way too long to come around on issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community. That aside, if you are trumplethinskin supporter who has stumbled here by mistake, kindly see yourself right on over to the next blog and be gone.

I love books likes this, especially when they are about a person or event that is important to me. I feel like these oral histories really get this raw reaction to events that one does not necessarily feel as strongly when written in narrative form. But having knowledge of several people interviewed, their voices, mannerisms, and habits, it was easy to picture myself sitting down for a conversation with them as they talked of Obama's campaigns and terms, and finally of him leaving in January of 2016. One of my most favorite photos, and also the photo that makes me the most sad, is mentioned toward the end, as the helicopter circles around and the photographer catches Obama looking down at the White House one last time before leaving the residence for good. Ugh. Just about brings me to tears every time.

I want to talk about trumplethinskin as little as possible in this review, because he doesn't deserve the attention. However, there is some necessary discussion, particularly pertaining to certain policies, as well as comparing and contrasting certain things related to each person's time in office, and naturally covering those final months when Obama was faced with the realization that everything he did and the legacy he left was going to be trampled by a giant man-baby who might truly believe that Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house. I mean, really. He is THAT stupid. More than trumplethinskin though, this will be a scathing look at what a fucking douchbag Yertle the Turtle McConnell is, and why he deserves all the mockery we can give him. Seriously, fuck that guy. Unsure why I have so much vitriol for McConnell? Because he is an absolute garbage human who went out of his way multiple times to say that his number one goal was blocking or halting anything Obama wanted to do while in office. Well gee, that's just great. Way to completely not care about your country or the people who elected you, you fucktard. Take a long walk, eh? But, we will get back to him in a bit. There will also be talk of Bernie's campaign, and some of the jerkwads supporting Clinton, who apparently think that she deserved the nomination 'just because', and dismiss the fact that Sanders mobilized so many young people to get involved and make their voices heard, even if in the end he was ultimately unsuccessful in becoming the nominee. It's not like the DNC was biased in favor of Clinton. Oh, wait...

Here is something I found extremely interesting, considering all the trumplethinskin supporters who raved about him legitimizing a dictator's regime on the national stage:

"One was this YouTube-sponsored debate in South Carolina in which he got a question about whether he would sit down with hostile leaders - Castro, Ahmadinejad, and so on - and he said he would, to advance America's agenda. His opponents jumped on him for being naive, for coddling dictators, and so on..." (6%, I accidentally cut off who the quote was from, ugh!) Isn't that INTERESTING, HMMMM? So the GOP wants to have a fit about Obama considering meeting with hostile leaders, but it's okay for trumplethinskin to actually go out and do it? Riiiiiight.

A few facts that made me both proud and sad at the same time:

"November 4 was a night the world had long awaited, to witness the US break a racial barrier and rid itself of the the stench from the Bush era" (10%). And now I would gladly take a third term of Bush if it meant getting you-know-who out of the White House. (Though we must remember that even though we are remembering W a little more fondly than we should, we have to keep in mind constantly that he supported Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court so...gross.) I was so proud to be an American, to see a black man voted in, earning the job and overcoming so much. The sad fact is, President Obama's election brought out the ugly side of our country too, a side I think too many of us thought was long gone. The disgusting rhetoric and horrifying threats he and his family endured for eight years - and still endure, it is all absolutely abhorrent. We have not advanced as a society nearly as far as we thought in terms of race relations, and outright racist assholes popping up and hanging effigies of Obama from trees. But, now we know these people still exist; the cockroaches can't scurry back into the dark, we see them and know who they are.

Fun/Sad Fact: "Approximately 130 million Americans showed up to the polls - more than any other presidential election in the nation's history" (10%). I love that so many more people were motivated to vote, especially in the wake of destruction that W left behind. But it pains me that still, so many people do not vote. And little by little, and in big leaps, the GOP is gerrymandering away, making voting harder and harder in communities already disenfranchised. This is unacceptable and we must fight this.

Now, back to Mitch McConnell and why he is a giant douchenozzle.

John Tanner: Mitch McConnell said his umber-one priority in the United States wasn't trying to do something about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said "the single most important thing (we want to achieve)" was to "deny Obama a second term. I'd never seen that (36%).

Barbara Boxer: Mitch McConnell basically said, "My mission is to defeat the president." The only thing I would say, I was able to get a lot done at times, but because it mattered to their states, whether it was a highway bill, a water bill, after-school care - it had nothing to do with the president. It had to do with self-interests and self-preservation...I did have colleagues to work with on specific issues, but they never disassociated themselves with what Mitch said, which was disappointing (36%).

There were numerous times throughout Obama's presidency that I was proud to have voted for him (twice). But perhaps one of the proudest moments I personally had as a citizen was seeing his response to the devastating mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th, 2012. On that day 26 people were murdered, the majority of whom were just babies still - 1st graders who must have been absolutely terrified in those last moments, not understanding what was going on. President Obama acted like a president that day, but more importantly he acted like a father in the days to come. He met with each family privately, he wept with them, and it was easy to see the genuine impact this horrific event had on him.

Pete Souza: He was riding high. He'd just won reelection, and a month later, about a week away from his annual Christmas vacation, was the worst day of his presidency...I think John had come up to the Oval like three different times, updating the president. I'm pretty sure this particular photo was when John confirmed to the president that twenty of the people killed were six or seven years old, first graders. Shit, I'm going to start crying as I think about this, because, you know, he's obviously being told this as a president, but I think he was reacting as a parent. He's putting himself in the shoes of every one of those parents. You send your kids off to school in the morning, and you never see them again because some madman just shot them to death (54%).

Cody Keenan: The president said that was his worst day in the White House. That was true for everybody...I got to work on the statement, and Favs and I took it up to the Oval Office to show the president, and he said, "This is right," except he took out one paragraph. I remember exactly what was in it. He just crossed out one paragraph and said, "I won't be able to get through this. It's too raw" (54%).

Danielle Crutchfield: I'd never seen the president look like that (54%).

I remember watching President Obama when he gave his statement. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I had found out just a month before that I was pregnant with Eleanor, and I usually had CNN on during my plan time while I worked. I didn't get a single thing done in that fifty minutes, I could not take my eyes off the television screen. Same goes for my lunch break that day. It was awful. I just kept thinking about all of those parents waiting to meet their children at that fire house, and finally it is down to just a few dozen people, and how do you handle that? How do you handle that your baby isn't coming home? I was a wreck, thinking about my own baby and how I could keep her safe, because this was the new "normal". I will never forgive the members of Congress who continue even now, how many mass shootings later, to accept blood money from the NRA. They riled up their members, talking about how Obama was "coming for their guns!" Really? Did he? Did President Obama himself kick down your door and seize all your weapons? Oh, that's right, he didn't. Fucking morons.

The day we as a society accepted the deaths of 20 first graders, is the day we lost our soul and our humanity. I have been disgusted ever since.

Cody Keenan: ...him thinking about his own girls in their classrooms, what it would be like if he got that all, what it would take to stop him from running in that school as fast as he could, how he wouldn't be able to breathe until he knew his own children were safe. He took all hat out and changed it to, "I know there is not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do"...Everybody kept saying how remarkable it was that members of Congress would tear up, and I remember people mocking the president for crying that day. Gimme a break (54%).

Pete Souza: He started crying from the podium. He, like me, would always get emotional thinking about that (54%).

Danielle Crutchfield: He's actually phenomenal in those instances, because before anything, he's a parent. He spent hours with the families (54%).

If you are from outside the US, and can not fathom for one moment how shit like this continues to happen, it is all about the money from the NRA (National Rifle Association).

Bill Dauster: It was a continuing frustration to us. Republicans were the problem. In contrast to the days of the assault-weapons ban a decade before, Republican senators came to view, it seemed, the NRA as part of the wing of the Republican Party, an important enough ally that they'd obtained greater cohesion with them than what was sensible for them (55%).

Carolyn Maloney: After Sandy Hook, when we had twenty children murdered, I really though that we would pas gun-safety laws. it's sort of like, how outrageous could it get before you did something? (55%).

And that is the million dollar question. So many mass shootings have happened since Sandy Hook, and nothing has changed. And no one should be surprised that this then comes back around to Mitch McConnell and his vow to completely block anything President Obama tried to do. McConnell and the Republican Party are two of the many reasons these shootings continue to happen. Don't even get me started on comprehensive mental health care.

Arne Duncan: In terms of actually getting any basic legislation done to keep kids and parents safe? W got an F. we absolutely failed. There is no other way to put it. The fact that we, as a nation, allowed the sheer quantity of deaths each year, it's a choice we made (55%).

Bill Dauster: The McConnell years were a study in ratcheting up dysfunction and obstruction from Republicans...It was remarkable to us that Senator McConnell was able to push his caucus to be even more obstructionist (55%). Exactly. THIS, right here. I've said it before and I will say it again: Fuck McConnell.

There are several more examples throughout that show just how difficult his terms in office were, due to McConnell and his posse of idiots. People then wanted to freak out over the number of Executive Orders issued by Obama, but what choice did he have? He was stuck with McConnell leading the way to literally block everything he attempted to do. I take comfort in the fact that despite this, I believe that Barack Obama will be remembered as one of our greatest presidents.

As the book starts winding down, we are brought by various conversations to the campaign season for the 2016 election. I am a loud and proud Bernie supporter, who wanted Sanders to get the nomination SO BADLY. We had a candidate there who actual meant what he said, who was not part of the establishment, who would follow through on what he said. I feel like Obama did a really great job staying out of the primary season, and he did not favor one candidate over the other, though he would later endorse Clinton. What struck me in this section of the book, was just how whiny Clinton and her camp were, and how they could never accept responsibility for their actions, which lead to the election of trumplethinskin. There were quite a few statements from Joel Benenson about how Sanders did this-and-this and said this-and-that, blaming Sanders for Clinton's loss. Well, here's a thought: maybe blame Clinton fr Clinton's loss. Novel idea, right? Time and again her people were told how unlikable she was perceived to be, how she was part of the same system that so many saw as broken. Clinton had to earn the presidency, it was not going to just be handed to her. In the end it wasn't, and good Lord our country is a hot fucking mess right now, but she and her team need to share the responsibility for the fact that the DNC was behind Clinton all along and the deck was rigged in favor of her. Had there been any semblance of an unbiased DNC, a Clinton vote would have been much easier to cast for those who decided to stay home on election day. Blame Clinton, not Sanders' supporters because the truth we all know is this: No one who truly supported Bernie and believed in his message could ever have fathomed turning and voting for trumplethinskin just because they were both 'outside candidates'. It simply could not happen. When I cast my vote for Clinton, it was not to elect her as president but to stop trump from getting the nod. I so wish Obama would have thrown his weight behind Bernie, but not-so-deep-down, I knew it was not going to happen. I will say that I 100% unequivocally believe that had the head-to-head been Sanders vs trumplethinskin, we would have a President Sanders right now, no question. There were some really interesting thoughts thrown around in this section, far too many for me to quote here, as I have already quoted so much. But I do appreciate these conversations being included, and those of the days following the election as well.

Kori Schulman: It was like a funeral. My eyes were full of tears (73%).

Rob O'Donnell: Everyone just wanted to get through their mornings before having any real conversations with anyone. Then, sometimes later, they held a meeting with the entire comms team in Josh Earnest's office. Josh and Psaki led it off, and then they opened the floor for people to talk...At first, fifteen people streamed in. He was like, "How many more people are there?" And if you look at the Pete Souza photo, it's a lot. Half of them are crying. And then he made a joke: "Well, I would have let you guys continue your communications meeting, but that didn't look like it was going particularly well" (73%).

Thanks to all of these people being so willing to share their time and memories, we have a beautifully comprehensive account of President Obama's time in office. It pains me that his legacy is being systematically dismantled right now. I can only hope that in 2020, we will once again be able to look to our president as someone worthy of respect, who is working for ALL, not just the ones who look like him, that gave him the most money. Highly recommended.


  1. I'd rather see Bush back in the White House than any more of Trump. The guy is an dangerous embarrassment to America. I complain about our leaders at times but I'm glad we don't have him. I'm afraid he might get a second term especially if Clinton stands again. There needs to be someone more like Obama was to beat him. This is another book on my wishlist!

    1. I never thought I would feel that way, but yes! Four more years of W, in an illegal third terms, would be preferable to this shit-show going on right now. I don't think Clinton will run again, despite all her supporters shouting about how she won the popular vote by three million. Candidates are going to have to more progressive than she was willing to be, in order to draw the younger generations - like Obama did, and like Bernie Sanders did in the primaries. She would be stupid to run again and the DNC would be stupid to support her candidacy.

  2. "The day we as a society accepted the deaths of 20 first graders, is the day we lost our soul and our humanity. I have been disgusted ever since".

    I am *SO* with you on that - and I don't even live there. How can any civilised country just accept things like this - and move on? It's WAY beyond me.

    Oh, and I SO miss Obama as President. I remember being annoyed that, as a Brit living 2K+ miles away I couldn't vote for him. It just wasn't fair.

    1. It scares me, both for Eleanor and myself - especially because she goes to a different school than the one I teach at. I hate that my five year old has to practice lockdown drills for an active shooter. I hate that I have to do so with my students. The basic plan is to lock the classroom door, hide where you can't be seen from the window and...hope he or she doesn't enter? I always tell my students that if there were to ever be a real lockdown, to grab something heavy like dictionaries, chairs, laptops, to have something to throw should someone enter our classroom. There are simply no places to hide 11 students and 3 adults in our room. We are on the second floor, and I have told them time and again that as soon as it is safe, we are going out the window. I'd prefer broken limbs over dead bodies.

      I miss him and Michelle so much. I miss not having to be embarrassed to say I am from the US. I miss a president who was intelligent, thoughtful, and hilarious. A president who understood the world around him, understood his impact on that world, and conducted himself accordingly. I voted for him twice and would gladly to so ten more times if it were possible.


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