Making his first and last appearance on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as President of the United States, Barack Obama addressed his successor’s decision to skip daily intelligence briefings. “It’s a big, complicated world, and it doesn’t matter how smart you are,” Obama said.
“If you’re not getting their detailed perspectives,” Obama added, referring to intelligence agencies, “then you are flying blind.”
In his half-hour taped interview at the White House, Obama addressed the Russian computer hacks, Obamacare, race and his post-presidency plans. On the latter he said, “I’ll be paying attention. I’ll be a citizen of this country I love deeply.”
On the Russian computer hacks, Obama dismissed the suggestion – promoted recently by Trump – that his Administration only broached the topic after the election. He pointed out that “a consensus” of intelligence agencies announced in October that the Russians were involved in the DNC hacking.
“This is not a fancy brand of espionage or propaganda,” Obama said, insisting that his demand for investigation results is necessary to prevent foreign interference in future elections.
Obama was particularly pointed about the nation’s focus – and the media’s “breathless” coverage – of the “drip drip drip” of the Clinton campaign emails rather than the Russian capability of tampering.
“What is it about our political ecosystem, what is it about the state of our democracy where the leaks of what were frankly not very interesting emails that didn’t have any explosive information ended up being an obsession, and the fact that the Russians were doing this was not an obsession?”
“This was not a secret running up to this election,” Obama said, recalling Trump’s calls for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s computers.
On Republican calls to replace Obamacare, the President said, “If they had a great idea, they should have come up with it five or six years ago.” He doubted that Republicans will come up with a better plan.
Obama also addressed the possibility of a reversal in his climate change policies. “They may change the policy on climate change, but climate change is still climate change.” He said that in his conversations with Trump, he advised that “problems don’t got away.”
“What you can’t do is pretend they’re not problems.”
As for his plans after January, he’ll give the new Administration “space,” but reiterated his previous claims that he “might have something to say” if he saw violations of the Constitution such as a Muslim registry or Dream Act kids “being rounded up.”
On the subject of race, Obama described the challenges of discussing the topic today. “There may be times where you just have to call things out and name names,” he said, “but the challenge we face today when it comes to race is rarely the overt Klansman style of racism, and typically has more to do with the fact that people have other stuff they want to talk about, and it’s sort of uncomfortable, and it’s somebody not getting called back for an interview though it’s never explicit. And who gets the TV acting job, (when) the actress who doesn’t quite look the part and what does that mean?”
“And I would add everybody has got a different role to play. If Chris Rock is doing stand-up, there’s a benefit to him doing something that is different from the President of the United States doing something,” Obama continued, taking a lighter route: “For one thing, he doesn’t have to edit his language quite as carefully, because I am still subject to some restrictions. Those seven words George Carlin talked about? As a general proposition, I can’t use those because there’s a lot of children watching, and I have to comport myself in a way my mother would approve of.”