‘Madman … racist, sexist pig’: new book details Obama’s real thoughts on Trump

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<span>Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

For much of Donald Trump’s presidency, Barack Obama largely abided by the convention that former presidents do not publicly criticize or attack their successors.

Related: Trump family members got ‘inappropriately close’ to Secret Service agents, book claims

Obama jettisoned any such caution during the 2020 election that put his own vice-president, Joe Biden, in the White House. But behind the scenes, with donors and advisers, Obama was reportedly much more candid.

According to a new book, Obama called Trump a “madman”, a “racist, sexist pig”, “that fucking lunatic” and a “corrupt motherfucker”.

The remarks are reported in Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Defeat Donald Trump by Edward-Isaac Dovere, a staff writer at the Atlantic, which will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Extracts of Dovere’s candid reporting have been published elsewhere – including a passage in which the now first lady, Jill Biden, is quoted as saying now Vice-President Kamala Harris should “go fuck herself” after a memorable debate-stage attack on Joe Biden early in the primary.

The reported remarks by Obama about Trump seem likely to prompt an angry reaction from the 45th president.

Trump still has huge power over the Republican party. But he is in increasing political and legal jeopardy from a prospective 9/11-style commission into the 6 January Capitol attack and multiple investigations into his financial affairs.

Trump’s loathing for Obama is well-known and oft-expressed, beginning with his championing of the racist birther conspiracy which said Obama was not qualified to be president.

Obama’s feelings are well-known, but have rarely been reported in such blunt detail.

Dovere reports that Obama first preferred the prospect of Trump as president to Ted Cruz, because Trump was nowhere near as clever as the hard-right Texas senator, the runner-up in the Republican primary in 2016.

But from 2017, as reality swiftly set in, Obama reacted like many in the US and around the world.

“He’s a madman,” Dovere reports Obama telling “big donors looking to squeeze a reaction out of him in exchange for the big checks they were writing to his foundation”.

“More often: ‘I didn’t think it would be this bad.’ Sometimes: ‘I didn’t think we’d have a racist, sexist pig.’ Depending on the outrage of the day … a passing ‘that fucking lunatic’ with a shake of his head.”

Obama’s strongest remark, Dovere reports, was prompted by reports that Trump was speaking to foreign leaders – including Vladimir Putin, amid the investigation of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow – without any aides on the call.

“‘That corrupt motherfucker,’ he remarked.”

Like Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Dovere also reports extensively on a relationship between Obama and Biden that was not as smooth as might have been thought given their eight years in power together.

Like Allen and Parnes, Dovere reports Obama’s vocal doubts, shared by much of the Democratic establishment, that Biden was too old and perhaps past his best.

Dovere also reports perhaps Biden’s key campaign insight, that Democrats including campaign rivals and he and Obama when in power were not sufficiently focused on the working- and middle-class voters who gave Trump his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In an interview, Biden describes the size of the challenge he found after succeeding in his third attempt to be president, close to his 78th birthday and in the middle of a global pandemic.

“I remember someone saying, ‘Joe, now you caught the car.’ I said, ‘No, I think I got the bus.’ I’m the dog that caught the bus.”

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