With only about a month until Trump’s inauguration, the clock is ticking on your chance to hear thoughts and reflections from Barack Obama as POTUS. Sooner than we’d like to admit we’ll be hearing from our country’s leader mostly via Twitter and likely with spelling mistakes.
Obama gave his last sit-down radio interview with NPR last Thursday and in the roughly hourlong conversation with the station’s Steve Inskeep, he covered a lot of ground.
The conversation, which aired Monday morning, spanned everything from Obamacare to African-American police relations, the next generation of America and the power of the presidency, as well as the recent election, the rise of Donald Trump, Russia’s hacking and Obama’s plans for after he leaves the White House.
These are the most striking parts of the interview.
His accomplishments in office
“I can say, and I can demonstrate, I can document that the country is a lot better off now than it was when I took office in almost every dimension,” Obama said. But he admitted we could be doing better. “Is there’s something else I could have done, something that I could have said slightly differently that would have led to additional progress and less polarization?”
His tendency to be ‘overly optimistic’
“I’ve been accused by friends, enemies, my wife, of sometimes being overly optimistic. But what can I tell you, this is this is my temperament generally,” he admitted. “And we are going through some growing pains right now, because the world is changing really fast, and it has throughout my presidency.”
How the Russian hacks may have ruined Hillary Clinton’s chances
“I have no doubt that it had some impact just based on the coverage,” he said. “And by the way, I’m talking about mainstream news coverage. I’m not talking about a whole separate set of issues around fake news.”
How the media covered the election like ‘a reality show’
Instead of focusing on real issues and policies, the media along with the entire “political ecosystem,” as he called it, gets distracted by “the shiny object.”
Those are “faux scandals, the trumped up controversies … insults that are flung back and forth. So that it ends up being covered like a reality show or at best a sporting event.”
His unsurprised response to the CIA report that the Russia hacks intended to help Trump
“I’m not suggesting cooperation at all,” Obama said about Trump’s involvement with Russia and any coordinated efforts to swing the election. “It just means that [the Trump campaign] understood what everybody else understood, which was that this was not good for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
“And when you combine that with the fact that the president-elect has been very honest about his admiration for Putin and that he hopes to forge a more cooperative relationship with him and focus on the threat of Islamic terrorism, then my only point was we shouldn’t now suddenly act as if this is a huge revelation.”
‘This is going to be a browner country’
Obama spoke about the growing Latino community and how the next generation needs to be educated and feel included in this country since they will be ensuring America’s success. “If you stopped all immigration today, just by virtue of birth rates, this is going to be a browner country,” he said.
“And if we’re not thinking right now about how we make sure that next generation is getting a good education and are instilled with a common creed and the values that make America so special and are cared for and nurtured and loved the way every American child is treated, then we’re not going to be as successful.”
However, the good news is we have the time to do it, he added showing that optimism again.
On ‘long-standing tension’ between the African-American community and police
“All these smartphones suddenly taking pictures are not documenting a suddenly worsening relationship between the African-American community and the police,” he said.
“They are recording what has been a long-standing tension and the sense on the part of police that they’re put in a very difficult situation of trying to manage law enforcement in poor communities where guns are easily accessible, the African-American community being rightly convinced that there is a long history of racial bias in our criminal justice system. And as painful as it is, that conversation is long overdue.”
The advice he gives his daughters on how to deal with bullies
“Don’t go around just looking for insults,” he advised them. “You’re tough. If somebody says something you don’t agree with, just engage them on their ideas.”
He suggested, “Speak up for yourself, and if you hear somebody saying something that’s insulting, feel free to say to that guy, ‘You know what? You’re rude’ or ‘you’re ignorant’ and take them on.”
His post-presidency plans
After eight years in office he plans to “sleep.” And he said he promised Michelle “a nice vacation.”