According to a new book by David J. Garrow, a young Barack Obama was once engaged to a white woman named Sheila Jager, back in the late ‘80s in Chicago. Already ambitious to be President, and realizing the political liability of having a white wife, Obama made a political decision – dump the white girl for a black one.
From the Washington Post:
In early 1987, when Obama was 25, Jager sensed a change. “He became. . . so very ambitious” quite suddenly, she told Garrow. “I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president.”
The sense of destiny is not unusual among those who become president. (See Clinton, Bill.) But it created complications. Obama believed that he had a “calling,” Garrow writes, and in his case it was “coupled with a heightened awareness that to pursue it he had to fully identify as African American.”
For black politicians in Chicago, he writes, a non-African-American spouse could be a liability. He cites the example of Richard H. Newhouse Jr., a legendary African American state senator in Illinois, who was married to a white woman and endured whispers that he “talks black but sleeps white.” And Carol Moseley Braun, who during the 1990s served Illinois as the first female African American U.S. senator and whose ex-husband was white, admitted that “an interracial marriage really restricts your political options.”
In Garrow’s telling, Obama made emotional judgments on political grounds. A close mutual friend of the couple recalls Obama explaining that “the lines are very clearly drawn. . . . If I am going out with a white woman, I have no standing here.”
He then met Michelle Robinson at a law firm in Chicago around 1990 and they became serious very quickly, even though he saw Sheila Jager on the side for a few more months.
David Garrow’s biography of Obama – Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama – is full of such harrowing revelations, including a startling fact that Obama once “considered gayness” in his college days.
Even his name is the subject of contention. In Garrow’s telling, Obama dropped his early use of “Barry” and began to use “Barack,” again another political calculation. And when family or friends, even Sheila Jager, called him “Barry,” he grew angry. He became “irrationally furious,” Jager said. “He told me that under no circumstances was I ever to use that name with him.”
As we learn more about the man who just left the Presidency after two terms, the more we find out that nearly everything about is life is shrouded in mystery and outright secrecy. And even something as sacred as marriage was no more than a political calculation to the ambitious Barack Hussein Obama.