The angriest former US President Barack Obama got during his 2007 Democratic primary race, according to a new memoir, was when his team circulated a memo that criticised his then rival Hillary Clinton by insinuating that she was representing India’s interests rather than the United States’.
Writing in Promised Land, which covers Obama’s historic campaign and his first term in the White House, the former US president says that he admits that his team occasionally fell short of its “high-minded rhetoric” in permitting ads or talking points to go out that were much more negative than the positive messages he wanted to stick to.
“In fact, the angriest I ever got during the campaign involved a leaked memo drafted by our research team back in June, criticizing Hillary’s tacit support of outsourcing jobs to India and with the snarky title “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab.” My team insisted the memo was never meant for public consumon, but I didn’t care—its shoddy argument and nativist tone had me ripshit for days.”
The (D-Punjab echoes an American convention of telling readers or viewers which party and which state each politician represents. In this case, the critique was an attempt to suggest that Clinton was a Democrat representing the interests of Punjab.
The memo in question, circulated to reporters in June 2007 by Obama’s campaign, went much further. It referred to former US President Bill and Hillary Clinton’s investments in India, her fund-raising among the Indian-American community, and the fact that Bill Clinton had earned $300,000 in speaking fees from Cisco, a company known to move jobs to India.
This isn’t the first time Obama has brought up the (D-Punjab memo. In 2007 itself, Obama blamed his staffers for circulating the memo, and called it a “dumb mistake” and “unnecessarily caustic.” At the time he also said that it was “not reflective of the long-standing relationship I have had with the Indian-American community.”
The circulation of the memo, which was flagged by Clinton’s campaign, would eventually prompt Obama to say that his campaign had taken action “to prevent errors like this from happening in the future.”