First lady Michelle Obama warned her husband not to challenge former Black Panther and four-term Rep. Bobby Rush in 2000, threatening divorce when Barack Obama got walloped in his first bid for national office, a new biography of the president claims.
“Michelle actually had divorce papers drawn up,” author Edward Klein wrote, quoting one of Mrs. Obama’s friends.
In the unauthorized “The Amateur,” Klein also said that Obama was talking divorce after the loss. “This was a calamitous turn of events, and during the dark days that followed his defeat, he turned to Michelle for comfort. But she was in no mood to offer him sympathy. After all, he had refused to listen to her warnings about taking on the formidable Bobby Rush. He had put his family in a precarious financial position. And he had dashed Michelle’s hopes of creating a stable and secure future. As a result, their marriage was on the rocks, and Obama confided to friends that he and Michelle were talking about divorce.”
Leaks from the book by Klein made headlines over the weekend, especially a claim that former President Clinton considered Obama an amateur. Obama supporters have criticized the book, which is based on 200 interviews. Media Matters, for example, calls Klein “radioactive” to “anyone who pushes his work.” The White House has pushed back also.
In the section about the 2000 election, Klein reports that Obama was so depressed by the loss that friends “worried that he was suicidal.”
His biggest concern, according to the book, was winning back Michelle’s admiration. Klein quotes Jim Reynolds, a capital markets manager prominent in Chicago’s African-American community who met with Obama after the loss. The excerpt:
“Over coffee, Obama bared his soul. He told Reynolds that Michelle was ‘kicking my butt,’ and he didn’t know what his next move should be.
“‘What do you want to do?’ Reynolds asked.
“‘I don’t want to be a burden to my wife,’ Obama said. ‘I want to make her proud. But no matter what, I’m determined to be successful in politics. I want to go national. I want to run for the United States Senate.’
“‘Come hang with me,’ Reynolds said. “I know a couple of people. I’ll introduce you around town.’”
Obama was eventually elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and he and the first lady appear totally committed to each other.