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tv   QA with David Garrow Part 2  CSPAN  July 23, 2017 11:00pm-12:01am EDT

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followed by british prime minister theresa may taking questions from members of the house of commons. later, a look at the 1967 detroit riots and the impact of that event two years later. -- event 50 years later. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," part two of our q&a interview with pulitzer prize-winning author david garrow. he talked about his book "rising star: the making of barack obama," which covers president obama's life prior to winning the presidency. you can watch this interview on our website c-span.org. brian: david garrow, author of "rising star: the making of barack obama." what was the hardest part of this book to be?
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david: without question the most challenging aspect of doing this book with dealing with the women before michelle obama. i am an academic historian. i'm different with how i deal with people than journalists are. when one is talking with people about intimate personal relationships, i'm very hesitant differential. i do not pose intrusive questions. it is crucially important both with alec mcnair and genevieve cook, there were all of these link the letters that barak wrote them, that they hung on to.
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it gives the history of barack's life a great depth and richness to have all of those letters in his own words detailing those relationships. brian: we talked a previous hour on this. it is almost 1500 pages including the notes and all that. did you have to cut this book down? david: very little. we made the decision to go with harpercollins as opposed to three other publishers because of harpercollins's willingness to go through with a book of this remarkable size. i am deeply indebted to harpercollins and the quality of the physical production of this
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volume is something i am immensely pleased with. brian: you mentioned the women in his life and i want to put on the screen the three women you write me most about besides michelle obama, his mother and his grandmother. alex mcnear in 1981, what did she tell you what is important. david: alex and barack were students together at occidental college. barack left occidental after his sophomore year wanting a bigger university to attend. he and alex began an episodic relationship only after barack has left occidental. alex was very interested in literary theory.
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barak's letters to her are often times very literary in their own qualities where he is both reacting to what alex has been writing him and barack has been wanting to demonstrate his on compositional abilities to her. genevieve cook, who barack meets in new york after he graduates columbia, they became quickly involved with each other. genevieve was just starting out teaching public school. was unhappy as a teacher. barack at that time, it is the most difficult period of his life. he takes a job and stays with it precisely 365 days at a financial publishing firm called
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business international operation. everyone else who worked at bi was quite happy there. they are a nifty set of people. it is now owned by the " economist " magazine. barack was a fish out of water. this was 1984-85. he writes in a letter to his mother about working for the enemy. his private politics in 1985 were somewhat anti-capitalist in fashion. when he hits the 365 day mark, barack quits bi and tries to find something else to do in new york. he walks with a desk he works with a -- he works with a ralph nader type group.
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i was teaching at city college that year. i don't know that he came to me and asked to speak in my classes. he was going to my colleagues and asking to speak in their classes. we might well have briefly intersected in february of 1985. barack sounds trying to organize -- found trying to organize undergraduates at a commuter school unfulfilled. he leaves that as of may of 1985 and is living in hell's kitchen. he sees a job for a beginning community organizer in chicago and that job is what begins his
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progression. if i can briefly tell a great history story, i was pretty sure that the job ad appeared in a fool scrap newspaper advertorial called "community chops." it is not the kind of thing that gets bound into volumes and saved in libraries. i looked in the online catalog of the library of congress and it showed 11-12 scattered u.s. institutions reported having cataloged the magazine. i am living in britain. i start calling these u.s. collegiate libraries that happened.
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five or six say we don't have it anymore, then i called the reference desk at indiana university of pennsylvania, state college of the northwestern pennsylvania. a nice lady said i will go take a look. teresa is her name. lo and behold they had not thrown it out. "community jobs," june 1985. archivists and librarians are essential to producing our factual document footnote written history. brian: why are there no photos in this book?
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david: this is a very long book that is maybe good value for the money but it is a pricey book. publishers expect authors to do all of their photo research and pay for that. there are very few good photos of barack obama that folks have not already seen and the photographers who own the rights to those photos would like a very pretty penny for them. i'm not someone who is wealthy enough to put $30,000 up front for photo rights. brian: we talked about the women but i want to ask you, you write about it often, this is not a book about his presidency. why not?
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david: with barack's life up through 2004 when he is elected to the u.s. senate, i believe this book is comprehensive and authoritative and will remain the primary book of record about barack's pre-presidential life for some decades to come. one could not in a similar way come anywhere close to addressing the presidency itself. brian: in the first hour of our interview, which you can see on our archive site, you talk about the difference between an academic historian and a
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commercial historian. we talked about a reporter and you say you are not. what is the difference in the kind of book we will read from both sides? david: the number one thing i would say is the extent to which i prioritize and seek out and rely upon contemporaneous documents. in the first chapter of this book, which portrays the world of the side of chicago that brooke gladstone --that barack arrives in in 1985. a newspaper called "the daily calumet." the covered the collapse of the southeast by steel industry with great journalism.
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it is on microphone and only on microphone. there is a lot of library work you have to do as a historian. we talked about how barack's most important girlfriends, sheila jager is someone i found thanks to student directories in the university of chicago library. barack had an essay in his high school europe --high school yearbook in hawaii about his basketball team. it is a nice essay, a charming piece about the meeting -- meaning of teamwork written by a high school senior. i found it in the hawaii state library. in the present day now, as distinct from 30 years ago,
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journalists believed everything you need is either on the web or available by telephone. to me that is simply not the case. there is an awful lot of old print material that you have to go dig out. brian: let me ask you about the way you did this. if you had a student comes to you and basically i'm a student asking you, how did you do this? i'm talking about physically, where did you write, how did you keep your notes, how do you keep track of the 300 pages of source notes. tell us what you can. david: starting back in early 2008 i began one word file, "obama notes."
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i kept it in entirely chronological order. it begins with early items about his father and grandparents. all told, single space, very small margins, over the years that file became a word document of something like 3500 pages and eventually i would print it out, print out the relevant portions of it for each chapter i was writing. when i began writing chapter one, which is chicago before barack arrives there, i would have on my desk everything printed out from this huge nets file that related to 1980-1985. those are marked up with colored magic markers so that for
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instance frank lumpkin, still worker organizer -- steel worker organizer is a central figure in chapter one, everything is marked up about him so it is there at my left hand side when i'm writing that segment. you do have to be really well organized to be able to master and manage this amount of notes material. i very much describe myself as a historian, not a writer because what i bring to this history is my ability as a researcher, as a historian, i have no pretensions of being a stylist.
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brian: how did you write the chapters? did you wait until all the research was done and then started? david: yes, i waited until 90% of the research was complete and i started writing in september of 2014 and i basically did not leave the house other than once a week to go to the grocery store for 18 months and i did it every day without exception, no holidays, no christmas, every day for 18 months. brian: what time of day? david: i am a morning person. my body wakes me up at 6:30 in the morning, even earlier in the summer. i would go until 6:30 in the evening. i would have a late burst of energy in the 4:00 until 6:00 p.m. range.
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it requires great discipline but the real joy, the joy of doing a book like this, the joy of doing my big book on dr. king, the joy is in the strength you draw from the meeting the people. i am so close with some of the surviving people although many have passed on. the great joy of doing this book is not in the writing, not in doing broadcast interviews in all frankness, the joy is meeting people like rob fisher who we talked about an hour earlier hour, barack's closest rent from 1988 until the
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mid-90's -- closest friend from 1988 until the mid 90's. my very first interview for this book, greg told me i should go see the woman who was the attorney who incorporated their community group, a 501(c)(3) paperwork. tax attorneys save their files. on day three in chicago, she
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pulls of these documents typed up by barack himself which included the list of everyone who was active in his community group. boom, day to our day three of my first trip to chicago i have 45-50 names, ministers, church lady, only three or four who had discovered by journalists. i sent out trying to locate the people. it is easier to find harvard law school graduate than it is to find people whose surname is meant -- smith and lives in a
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public housing project in 1986. i found a good 90% of people with whom louvre --barack worked in 1985. brian: how long have you worked at the university of its birth -- university of pittsburg? david: six years. brian: you say you are a bernie sanders supporter? david: having lived in britain for six years i'm a very outspoken important -- outspoken proponent of socialized medicine. the health service in the u.k. was excellent. brian: you voted for barack obama? david: yes.
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brian: you spent some eight hours with him, once again, where was that physically? david: at the white house. our first meeting was in the oval office. people have seen many pictures of that setting. brian: did you take a picture? david: yes. the white house photographer was there. brian: anyone else in the room with you? david: no. when i went back for my second and third visit with barack, those were what is in the private dining room which is a small dining room a little bit west of the oval office if i have the layout of the white house. brian: not attached to the oval office? david: no, it is a small, private hallway.
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brian: the reason i bring that up is one of the things you spend a lot of time with is the life around their relationship that includes sex, drugs, both cocaine and marijuana and when the president's office printed, was he surprised and busy -- and did he kick back? david: genevieve cooks's journal from 1984-1985, which she shared with me almost in its entirety. previously she had only shared selected excerpts. genevieve's journal documents just how much cocaine barack was using with his best friends in new york.
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they are providing it, he is not spending money. that's in the summer of 1985. there is no drug use after that. did anyone object or disagree with that presentation when they read this book and manuscript, no. brian: about the concentration on sex, there is more than one page where you are saying they spent the whole day in bed and why did you think that was important to the book? david: the passage you are alluding to comes from two good friends of barack and sheila gauger, who remember an argument between barack and sheila. they are recounting this daylong argument between barack and
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sheila where sheila is pushing back very forcefully against barack's articulation of his growing racial identity. it is not a story simply of barack's romance with sheila. one of the wonderful women in his community, a white woman down in the largely black south side, kathy was a single mom who had two biracial daughter's and kathy very much wanted her children to identify as half and half. barack would argue with kathy and say you have to choose. barack, like kathy's daughter's, half white, half black, barack chosen to identify as
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african-american. he and kathy, they had the same argument about racial i did as barack and sheila --racial identity as barack and sheila did. sex is a part of his life as a young man but that is not all there is by any means. host: i need to ask you about this, he spent nine years on the book, when was it finished? david: i finished most of the writing in the spring of 2006 team -- 2016. this was entirely completed before the presidential
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election. i could have made changes of through this january but i did not. brian: after doing all this work, 3500 pages of notes, you wake up on may 1 and you read in the new york times the following, this is by --a lot of people cannot wait to give a positive review. here's what she said. "rising star," the voluminous 460 page biography of barack obama is a dreary slog of a read."
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what was your reaction? david: two things. first, anyone who is interested in the story should look at number one, her long washington post interview. brian: why did she write this and another wrote completely the opposite? david: there's an entirely different review in the time by the sunday book review. i believe it is an easily visible matter of public record that she has been a great fan of barack obama. was hosted by him this past january and wrote an adoring piece about president obama.
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my book challenges very firmly much of the self portrayal that barack presents of his early life in "dreams." carlos in the post calls that persuasive. in a more professional world she would recuse herself from reviewing a book about someone that she has an intense attachment with. brian: i know people who did not recover from a review like that. did it take you off when you read it? david: i was not surprised given that i was completely on top of
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what she had written previously about president obama and especially about the memoir. brian: the rest of the book is written in dry, largely inflected pros, the epilogue almost reads like a republican attack ad. david: i believe that is a false and inaccurate characterization of the epilogue. about half of the epilogue is a survey of what happens during 2007-2008 presidential campaign with particular emphasis on pieces of barack's earlier life that became controversial during the presidential campaign. bill ayers, reverend jeremiah wright.
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it may be to some extent forgotten in the age of donald forgotten in the age of donald trump. throughout barack's presidency, "the washington post" were oftentimes very unhappy with his performance as president, with the policies he pursued or did not pursue as president, and so i believe my quick summary treatment of his presidency in the epilogue is entirely fair but critical. people ask me nowadays what do i think the obama legacy will be very i would say two things.
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i am afraid that most of that legacy lies overseas in foreign policy, syria, north korea, iran. when we look at president obama's domestic legacy, i think there are two things that are important that will have long-lasting consequences that can be summarized in four words, sonia sotomayor and elena kagan, his nominees to the supreme court. both are great justices, both justices who have done better than some critics expected. it is a critical epilogue but it is not hostile. brian: i want to ask you about this man. this is fairly long. this is a man you write about a lot.
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jeremiah wright, conservative talkshow host. here he is in 2001. [begin video clip] heard ambassador pack yesterday. he was on fox news. this is a white man and he was upsetting the fox news commentators. he pointed out that what malcolm x. said was true, america's chickens are coming home to roost. [applause] wright: we took this country away by terror from the sioux, apache, comanche, navajo. terrorism. we took africans from their country to build, and kept them
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as slaves living in fear. terrorism. we bombed hiroshima and nagasaki. the pentagon, new york, we never batted an eye. kids playing in the playground. mothers picking up children after school. civilians trying to make a day by day. we have supported state terrorism against palestine and black south africans and we are indignant. clip]ideo brian: how many years did the
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obamas sit in those pews? david: they joined in 1992 in order to get married there in october. barack came to know the reverend five years earlier working as a community organizer. reverend wright's church was outside the geographical boundaries of barack's neighborhood where he was organizing. reverend wright began to have an impact, a paternal impact on barack, even before he goes to law school. i love jeremiah wright and i am proud to say that but that comes from the part of me that is grounded in martin luther king jr. because of my own previous book on dr. king. black liberation theology is a radical doctrine. one of my oldest closest academic friends, a theologian, jim is the leading progenitor of black liberation theology, and what jeremiah's church came to represent was the living embodiment of what black theologians like jim cohen and cornell west have championed. reverend wright's preaching,
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barack was not there that day. barack and michelle were not there for another of reverend sermons.notorious i do not think the reverend's preaching is in any way reflective of barack obama's beliefs. trinity church was great if you were an aspiring young african-american politician in chicago. but, as many good things can be but, as many good things can be said about reverend wright, i would say that no one should be judged by history for the three stupidest things they have ever said. there is a much worse clip from the national press club some years later -- brian: is that the one where he damned america? david: yes.
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i mean it's -- but, the immense amount of good the reverend jeremiah wright has done vastly outshines how any of us might feel about a sermon like that. brian: here is another person that the conservatives brought up for eight years almost every day, a guy named frank marshall davis. here he is in 1987. he's no longer alive. clip] video >> did you have troubles with the fbi? >> yes, naturally. >> what happened? >> i had fbi agents around the early 1960's who told me -- what own personals my
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agents. change me, what made you your mind? -- leave you elave the the party. said, wait a minute, if i said i left that would indicate that i had been a member of the communist party and i have never told anybody that. clip]ideo brian: how does he fit in? david: frank marshall davis by the time barack is a young child in hawaii, is living in honolulu. frank had been a very prominent black poet in chicago. frank had married a wealthy white women in the late 1940's and they decided to move to hawaii because they were going to experience a whole lot less racial discrimination as an interracial couple in honolulu
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than chicago. by the 1960's, through one of his best friends in honolulu, barack's grandfather. stanley and his wife madeleine, barack's grandparents, pretty much raised barack and a modest -- in a modest apartment in downtown honolulu. stanley was an amateur poet himself, a man who enjoyed dirty limericks. he and frank davis would hang out together and stanley was a very conscious of having a grandson who is half black and stanley went out of his way to introduce his grandson, barry, to frank davis. and barack, for barack, frank davis was the first adult
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african-american male whom he knew. again, the age of a grandfather. they never became as close as barack did to jeremiah wright 20 years later, but barack, as a young man in high school and college, is trying to write poetry. there is no question that frank davis did have some impact on barack. but, barack no more new that frank marshall davis had actually been a communist in the 1940's than he knew that bill ayers had been involved in planting bombs. barack in neither instance -- it is not a reflection on who
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barack is, what people had done earlier. brian: frank marshall davis took photographs of barack obama's mother. david: no -- that's an allegation that is out there. i believe it to be entirely without foundation. brian: they are pictures on the internet, though. i remember seeing tabloids. david: i believe those photos are 500% fake photoshops. frank lived a very colorful life. he published a sexual autobiography under a pseudonym but that part of his life has no bearing on barack's interaction with him. brian: another person you wrote about is a man named ricky
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hendon, a state senator in illinois. here he is a couple of years ago. [begin video clip] >> barack and i served in the senate together and he had made a bad vote and i was trying to protect a child buffer center in my district and barack was doing his fiscally conservative thing and he was the only african-american to vote against me. and i won a few democrats. i am the kind of guy -- i asked him, why did you vote against me? he gave me some b.s. so i went back to my seat kind of perplexed and god is so good -- even though i was going to vote to keep his facility open and not vote against him, i did point out that it would have been great to have his support five minutes ago when it was the west side instead of the south side and he tried to change his
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vote and he got a little upset about that and he came over and i embarrassed him senate floor and that did it again he would kick my butt. to cme on back and we had a little scuffle. now, yous forgiven
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know. but he was wrong, i was right, and the rest is history. brian: this is your writing, "for the first and only time in his life, barack obama completely f-ing lost it." david: it is without question that the only time in barack obama's life that he attempted to initiate a fistfight with another human being. senator hendon is a colorful character. his name and illinois is hollywood hendon. he teased the bejeezus out of barack obama before that confrontation took place. his description of that is 100% accurate. i have interviewed another 15-18 people who were present that day and witnessed it. two or three of whom got between them to break it up. without question, they describe barack as the aggressor. senator hendon is in good shape but shorter than barack obama. it is a unique story that senator hendon was so able to agitate barack obama that barack obama wanted to have a fistfight with him.
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brian: i do not know how to ask this but, in all of the time that you reviewed barack obama's life, did he ever do anything illegal? besides coke? david: no. but i would tell you to stories that i think are indicative of illinois politics. in illinois politics, the phrase is well known, pay to play. where if someone wants to receive business or grants from the state, you better be a campaign contributor. and i think one of the things in his entire political record that he is most embarrassed about is $10,000 in contributions that he received from a southside activist figure who had actually been the republican nominee challenging him for the state senate seat in 1998.
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after that, friends of that activist contributed $10,000 to barack's next campaign. earmarks, as we would call them, earmarks, they're called in washington. member initiative they are called in illinois. earmarks, legislatures are able to designate funds for recipients. low and behold, the activists group receives a $75,000
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earmark, thanks to senator obama. that is paid to play. it is not a legal but it is not the barack obama most people think they know. and i can say without question, it is something that barack is embarrassed to be reminded of. brian: did you talk to rasco? david: tony rasco is out of prison. i was never able to get a response from him. tony rasco was a very important political proponent contributor to barack obama, starting in the mid-1990's. prior to about 2002, most people in chicago and illinois politics thought that he was a good guy and they thought he went bad only when he got into a very close relationship with the former illinois governor who is still in prison. i believe that barack shared that view of tony rasco but the man they knew throughout the 1990's, syrian immigrant, worked his way up from very modest initial circumstances, learned english, brought a lot of his family to the united states.
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brian: what did they do together? david: tony was a major bundler, as people say and fundraising terms, for barack's campaigns, particularly for his 2004 senate campaign. across all the years from 1995-2003, tony rasco was the most important financial supporter of barack obama. but that doesn't necessarily reflect badly on barack. brian: we have not talked about a man you mentioned many times, emil jones. who is he. david: he was a politician who by 1997 when barack enters the senate is the democratic leader of the minority caucus. in november, democrats take
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control of the senate and now senator jones, very traditional chicago african-american politician from chicago, is one of the most powerful people in illinois. he has a pretty conflictual relationship with the speaker of the illinois house, mike madigan. now, when barack's first talking about running for the u.s. senate in the 2004 cycle in spring of 2002, he goes to senator jones to ask for his support and this is really a defining moment in barack's political rise because senator jones' decision to support barack -- one of barack's competitors is supported by
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jones' rival speaker madigan -- so jones' decision to put all of his political influence behind championing barack as the democratic nominee for u.s. senate -- that is what makes barack obama a serious statewide contender in illinois. brian: near the end of the book on page 1065, there is this quote: "barack is a tragic figure. so much potential, such critical times, but such failure to perform like he is an empty shell," one long time hyde park
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friend lamented. "maybe the flaw is hubris, deep and abiding, hubris -- as if his touch and deep understanding will clear the path. how else could he possibly be so unruffled?" is that somebody we would know? david: it is in the endnotes. there are no anonymous sources. i may not put a name in the text but if people go to the end notes, they see everyone. brian: can you tell us who it is? david: i cannot answer you that accurately off the top of my head. i do not have every quote in the book memorized in my memory. i think the point to emphasize here is that over the course of barack's presidency, there were scores and scores of people in illinois who had known him in years earlier who were deeply disappointed with that trajectory of the obama presidency and disappointed in two ways -- number one, disappointed that barack forgot
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the people -- many of the people, most of the people -- who were essential to his political rise. brian: namely? david: dan shulman, will burns, -- reverend wright? david: with reverend wright, it is more complicated because of the sermons you showed earlier. a lot of people felt they had been left behind. brian: what about the south side community of chicago? david: yes. i am speaking of primarily african-americans, not white people. during the final months of his presidency, there was a retroactive effort to invite people to the white house to make up -- something that i think would have changed the feelings of someone like that, had that effort been made in 2009-2010.
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but the world in which barack grew up in chicago during the 1990's was a very progressive world and so a lot of the people who knew barack well back then who were disappointed with him as president, they have policy disagreements within. they are not upset that they didn't get invited to the christmas party. they are upset that somebody who was an outspoken critic of the patriot act ends up as a champion of the cia and the justice department prosecutions of journalists. brian: how much of the -- reveal to you is payback? david: i think zero. we have had certainly one or two reviewers of this book characterize sheila as angry or bitter and i am not the world's best feminist, needless to say. but i think people who would
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call sheila bitter or angry for being politically critical -- i think if the gender roles were reversed, if we were quoting an old boyfriend of hillary clinton, i do not think viewers would be characterizing a male old boyfriend as bitter or angry in the way that they treat a woman. brian: is it your book? did barack obama call her during the presidency and it was -- was it after he learned that you knew this stuff? david: barack and sheila last spoke in 1991 until 2012. they exchanged some letters in 2001 in the wake of 9/11. but in april or may 2012 when alex mcnair and genevieve cook
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were outed for the first time, sheila, as she recounted, picks up the phone and barack is calling her, seeking reassurance that she hasn't been discovered. it is a mixed experience because sheila tells barack that she has been talking to dave garrow for 2.5 years. barack and sheila remained in some degree of contact from 2012 for another two years. david: you've been around him for about eight hours, do you like him?
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that sounds like a vacuous question. david: i liked him much more before he was president, frankly. i think it is worth stressing that barack obama is someone who believes in a strict compartmentalization between someone's public life and someone's private life. i find it striking that somebody could be president of the united states for eight years and want to insist that there should be a complete divide between the on the record story and the reality of somebody's life. perhaps that stands from having been a memoirist, somebody who wrote an account of his own early life, that i conclude is predominantly a work of historical fiction because that is my professional judgment as a historian of what "dreams from
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my father" is. but barack is deeply committed to presenting his story and i think that is different from history. brian: one of the points made is that he ended up wanting to marry a black woman instead of the three white woman that he dated. did he decide to do this for political reasons? david: i think that barack's political aspirations and sense of destiny lead him to push sheila aside. during that time, there was a well-known political figure in chicago, hugely respected man, senator dick newhouse, who everybody believed couldn't go higher because he was married to a white woman so it is in the political tradition of black chicago in the late 1980's and the early 1990's that for a black man to aspire to represent black chicago, it is necessary to have a black spouse.
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brian: where are you going to put all the material you have? david: that is a question that is very much in my mind. i still have all of my interview materials going back to my martin luther king book. "bearing the cross." once i have this next month or so out of the way, i am very consciously focus on wanting to find an archival repository that will take good care not just of the documents but all of these thousand plus recorded interviews. brian: there is another hour of this available on our archive. do you have another book you are writing? david: no, sir. i doubt it, very much. brian: our guest has been david
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j. garrow. his book is called "rising star: the making of barack obama." david: thank you, brian. ♪ announcer: for transcripts or to give us your comments, visit us at qanda.org. q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] in announcer: you have been watching the second half of our two-part interview with pulitzer prize-winning author david garo
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talking about his book "rising star: the making of barack obama." monday night on "the communicators" the cofounder of the aol on his book "the third wave" and why he thinks we are at the beginning of a third way get -- wave of internet development and why he is looking outside of silicon valley. picking going to see it up steam. that will be the internet being integrated it much more seamless across ourve ways lives. education, health, energy, food. pretty big sectors of the economy. it is a part of a different mindset and playbook whether you are an innovator or a policy maker. >> watch the communicators monday night at 8:00 eastern on
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c-span two. crying star in time this past week, british prime minister theresa may was asked about the >>s internet -- universe -- week, this time last british prime minister theresa may was asked about the uk's universe. order! primeons for the minister. mr. jeffrey robinson. minister. mister jeffrey robinson. >> as we approach recess, i am sure members of all sides for their dedication to our work in washington, particularly challenging here. we start terrorists attack our cr

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