TODAY | June 18, 2012
>>> the early years of president barack obama . the author is out with a biography how the president struggles with identity that put him on a path to the white house house, "the story of barack obama ." we met yesterday and here we are again. a lot of this book is about what barack obama as a young man had to resolve about his own life. a lot of dysfunction in his life.
>> pretty much so. he never knew his father. his mother loved him but wasn't around that often. here he is growing up in honolulu further than any land mass in the world. half black, half white. dysfunction in the family, alcoholism. all these problems he had to resolve. from the time he started college until the time he left chicago as a community organizer to get to harvard law school , 10 years of his life, i found he spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to resolve those contraics dids, emotionally, spiritually, racially, and he really worked it out to a degree that helped him get to the white house . in some ways it hurt him as president of the united states .
>> talk about that piece, where it's hurt him.
>> well, it's a sense if he can resolve all of these contradictions, why can't congress, the country, why so much polarization. he came in -- became famous because of his speech in 2004 at the democratic convention where he said there's no blue states or red states but the united states . sort of an attempt on his part to transcend all that. the politics of the country, not his forte. president clinton a much better survivor dealing with congress and people in a way barack obama is not comfortable with.
>> you write about the difference between those two presidents. when it comes to ambition, where did the ambition to become the leader of the free world come from in a young barack obama .
>> i think it came from his mother. she didn't have the same type of ambition but inculcated the idea he had to do good, great things with his life, expected great things from him. it was diffuse ambition. it wasn't until he got to chicago and he understood what power meant that he started the ambition to become president.
>> you spoke to the president for a period of time. it's interesting. here in the book you take on his auto bag rafe, "dreams of my father." you talk about inconsistencies, talk in greater detail about pot smoking as a young person . letters from former loves. how did he react to all that?
>> he's a writer himself. when i first interviewed him, he said, david, your introduction i let him read, it's interesting he called my book fiction. i said, no, mr. president, it's literature. it wasn't i was trying to fact check everything in his bag rafe but i wanted to get the story right. he didn't quite with me about it but it was an interesting conversation.
>> was he forthcoming about these additional details?
>> in most cases he said, you're probably right. a lot of the mythology was passed to him that he didn't check. his stepgrandfather in indonesia he thought died fighting the dutch in the anti- colonial war . in fact, the man died of a heart attack following off an otto man changing the drapes in the living room. he didn't check that. when i told him the reality of many of those things, he said you're probably right.
>> twenty seconds. the president is the leader he is. how do we understand that based on where he's come from?
>> i think everything about him is his desire to avoid traps. he had the trap of coming out of hawaii, of being biracial, of being in chicago politics. every step along the way he's tried to figure out what the trap is and how he can get around it. now he's in the biggest trap of his life, running for re-election.
>> barack obama , the book. back after your local news.