An ex-girlfriend of President Obama, Genevieve Cook, talks about her relationship with him in a new book, "Barack Obama: The Story". Cook's diary entries are part of a new biography of Obama by Washington Post reporter David Maraniss.
Vanity Fair obtained an excerpt of the book that will be published next week. The six-page excerpt reveals Obama's relationship with two of his former girlfriends, Alex McNear, whom he met at Occidental College before he moved to Columbia, and Genevieve Cook, daughter of an Australian diplomat.
Obama, 22, met Cook at a Christmas party in New York's East Village in December 1983. She was 25, three years older than Obama. They began dating in 1983 and they lived together briefly before the relationship broke up in May 1985. Genevieve writes about her impression of Obama in her journal that comes in Maraniss's book under the title "Young Barack Obama in Love: A Girlfriend's Secret Diary." She registers her impression of him at a point in their relationship: "I'm left wondering if Barack's reserve, etc. is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he's sorted his life through with age and experience. Hard to say, as obviously I was not the person that brought infatuation."
Cook says Obama in his 20s was charming and alluring yet distant and unreachable. Cook writes: "The sexual warmth is definitely there. But the rest of it has sharp edges and I'm finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all. I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive."
For those who have been touting Cook as the "mystery woman" Obama referred to in his "Dreams of My Father" where he wrote "There was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white... Her voice sounded like a wind chime," Obama says Cook was not the girlfriend he was referring to. Maraniss writes that Obama "acknowledged that, while Genevieve was his New York girlfriend, the description in his memoir was a 'compression' of girlfriends, including one who followed Genevieve when he lived in Chicago." In his book, Obama describes an incident in which his girlfriend talked about "why black people are angry all the time."
Cook reveals some personal details about Obama. He had a modest apartment in Manhattan. She writes in her journal of her impression of his home, "I open the door, that Barack keeps closed, to his room, and enter into a warm, private space pervaded by a mixture of smells that so strongly speak of his presence, his liveliness, his habits - running sweat, Brut spray deodorant, smoking, eating raisins, sleeping, breathing."
The two began seeing each other after they met every Thursday night and on weekends. The romance grew and then cooled soon after she moved in with Obama. But Obama definitely made a strong impression on Cook who remarks: "How is he so old already, at the age of 22?"
She reveals, for instance, that Obama loved lounging around on Sundays, drinking coffee and solving the New York Times crosswords puzzle, bare-chested and wearing a blue and white sarong. According to Cook, Obama appeared confused about his racial identity and "felt like an impostor because he was so white." Cook says Obama finally resolved the conflict by "deciding to go black."
The New York Times columnist Charles Blow, tweeted a warning to readers seeking new material to use against Obama, saying Cook's revelations are not "salacious or prurient." ABC News comments that opponents seeking to use the diary against the president may "have only one real line of attack," his pretentiousness, as alleged.
Obama's pretentiousness is supposedly revealed when he attempts literally criticism for the benefit of his girlfriend Alex McNear, whom he met at Occidental University, California. The two spent the summer of 1982 in New York after Obama's transfer to the Columbia University and continued corresponding after she returned to Los Angeles. Obama, in a "densely-written opinion on T.S. Eliot," whom McNear was writing a thesis on, said:
"...the dichotomy [that TS Eliot] maintains is reactionary, but it's due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance... And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter – life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot's irreconcilable ambivalence; don't you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?"
According to Obama: "There's a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism. Eliot is of this type." According to McNear, Obama was "obsessed with the concept of choice. Did he have real choices in his life? Did he have free will?"
The Guardian quotes John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary Magazine, commenting on Obama's letters: "It's actually a fascinating and moving piece and you should read it; the letters and the secret diary in question are a testament both to the complexities of Obama's character, and to the fact that to become the president of the United States, you need to start forming your presidential personality really, really early, to the detriment of all your other interests and relationships if necessary."