Nov 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama: McCain's Palin pick shifted U.S. politics "in a direction he abhorred"

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama writes about the ideological shift in the Republican Party following his election in 2008 in the first volume of his new, 768-page memoir, according to a copy of the book obtained by CNN.

Driving the news: In the book, titled A Promised Land, Obama says the shift in the Republican Party can be traced to when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate during the 2008 campaign. Her elevation to the Republican presidential ticket "would provide a template for future politicians, shifting [McCain's] party's center and the country's politics overall in a direction he abhorred."

  • "Through Palin, it seemed as if the dark spirits that had long been lurking on the edges of the modern Republican Party — xenophobia, anti intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, an antipathy toward Black and brown folks — were finding their way to center stage," Obama writes
  • "I'd like to think that given the chance to do it over again, he might have chosen differently," Obama writes of McCain. "I believe he really did put his country first."

What they're saying: "It was as if my very presence in the White House had triggered a deep-seated panic, a sense that the natural order had been disrupted," wrote Obama.

  • According to CNN, Obama writes that Donald Trump rose through the ranks of the Republican Party by appealing to white Americans with reservations about a Black president, a sentiment that "migrated from the fringe of GOP politics to the center."
  • "For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he promised an elixir for their racial anxiety."

Where it stands: Obama also opened a larger discussion about the relationship between Republicans and the media. He wrote about how Trump's distasteful actions earned him constant media attention and how the the GOP followed along.

  • "In that sense, there wasn't much difference between Trump and Boehner or McConnell. They, too, understood that it didn't matter whether what they said was true," he writes, adding: "In fact, the only difference between Trump's style of politics and theirs was Trump's lack of inhibition."
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