September 27, 2023

Pete Souza’s Obama Book Cuts Obama Out of the Picture

For the Obama aides closing up shop, those final months between Election Day and the inauguration were filled with tears and apprehension. On his last foreign trip as president, Obama privately mused to Ben Rhodes, his deputy national security adviser, that Trump’s victory made him question whether he truly understood the country that elected him as its first Black president. “What if we were wrong?” Obama asked Rhodes during a stop in Peru, according to a recollection Rhodes included in his book “After the Fall.” “Maybe we pushed too far. Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe,” he elaborated. “Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early.”

Trump, a real estate baron with no political experience and scant understanding of or respect for American traditions and laws, was sui generis in the country’s modern history. And Obama, a constitutional lawyer by training, was nervous about the upheaval.

“President Obama thought it was the best thing for the country to get him there as soon as possible,” Souza said of arranging a visit for the president-elect. “And Trump came two days after the election,” scoping out his new digs and, it later emerged, hearing the pressing concerns on Obama’s mind.

On Inauguration Day, Souza fielded frantic calls from his counterpart in the new White House, Shealah Craighead, in an anecdote that underscores the seat-of-the-pants nature of the Trump takeover.

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