Obama Tells Colbert That Trump ‘Exceeded’ His Worst Nightmares
The former president revealed to Stephen Colbert what was going through his mind when he first sat down with the newly elected Donald Trump at the White House in 2016.
More than eight months after he was forced to perform his monologue from a bathtub, Stephen Colbert finally conducted a face-to-face interview. And he couldn’t have asked for a bigger guest.
The Late Show host traveled down to Washington, D.C. this week to sit down, at a healthy distance, with former President Barack Obama and talk about his new best-selling memoir A Promised Land and the perilous state of American democracy in the last days of President Donald Trump.
“I just want to take a moment to drink you in for just a moment,” Colbert said early in the interview. “Because I’m having to get used to looking at a president again. I’ve gotten out of the habit. I have to warm up for Joe Biden. I don’t want to pull anything when I see him take the oath of office.”
Seeming to agree with that assessment, Obama said, “We’ve got the potential of returning to a presidency that is actually paying attention and trying to do right by all people and not just some.”
For the most part, Colbert decided to leave the man who is still the current president aside, explaining that he’s talked enough about him over these past four years.
More often than not it was Obama who returned to Donald Trump, if not by name, calling out his administration’s “shambolic” response to the COVID-19 pandemic and adding that it’s not “rocket science” to simply take the scientific recommendations seriously.
Asked by the host if he was surprised that Republicans didn’t see the “political advantage” of acting like they “cared,” Obama said, “I think that that is a measure of how detached from reality and how embedded ideological and conspiratorial thinking has become, where you’re doing it even when it’s to your disadvantage.”
Demonstrating a surprising historical knowledge of Colbert’s career, he added, “In your original show, right, you’re satirizing a certain attitude, but you never thought that folks would actually start believing it.”
“I did not know I was a prophet,” Colbert replied. “I thought I was a comedian.”
“You couldn’t make up some of the stuff that you’re seeing,” Obama said. “And it is to the detriment of the country, but it also runs contrary to what would have been smart politics if the Republicans wanted to maintain the White House.”
“And that in some ways is more troubling because now it’s no longer even strategic,” he continued. “You’re drinking your own Kool-Aid in a way that I think is troublesome. And one of the big challenges that Joe Biden is going to have is to figure out how to puncture that information bubble that, not just Republican officials, but a sizable portion of voters are in right now.”
As Trump continues to deny that he legitimately lost to Biden, Colbert reminded Obama about the gracious way he invited his successor into the White House for a meeting and photo-op shortly after the 2016 election. The host said it was a “chilling moment” to watch because he had an “emotional flash” of all the ways Trump could abuse the “dignity of the office” over his first term. “Were you having a similar feeling in that moment?” he asked.
“Yeah, it was a concern,” Obama answered. When Colbert asked if those concerns were “borne out,” Obama said they were “exceeded.”