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At the beginning of the year, Bill Maher started a petition to land President Barack Obama as a guest on his HBO show. He finally achieved that goal months later when POTUS sat down for a lengthy interview for Real Time, and the pair discussed a variety of issues, including the coming election.
“The stakes are high,” Obama said, just before concluding the interview, which took place in the White House. “The choice in this election should be really clear, and anybody who’s watching your show and was a supporter of mine or was a supporter of Bernie [Sanders’], is a progressive generally, this idea that somehow, well, both of [the candidates] have problems and nothing will change either way, listen.”
He argued that all the progress we’ve made as a nation — including on climate change, the Paris agreement, health care, Wall Street reform with Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Finance Bureau, and immigration reform — will be in jeopardy if Donald Trump is elected. “Every single issue that we’ve made progress on in the last eight years is gonna be on the ballot in the form of this choice,” he said.
“I have worked with Hillary Clinton. I know her and she is somebody who cares about these issues, she does her homework, she cares deeply about ordinary folks, her policies are aligned with yours and mine,” he continued. “And, yes, she is somebody who believes in compromise so that you don’t get 100 percent of what you want, but you know what? That’s the way this democracy works. Anybody sitting on the sidelines right now or deciding to engage in a protest vote, that’s a vote for Trump and that would be badly damaging to this country and that would be damaging for the world. So no complacency this time.”
Watch Obama’s full interview in the video above and skip to around the 34 minute mark to hear his comments on the election.
Obama called his time in the White House “a singular privilege,” but that “it is time” to step down. “I think I’m as good a president now as I’ve ever been, because you learn stuff over eight years,” he said. “You’ve sort of been around the track a bunch of times. But I also see now the wisdom of the founders, that at a certain point you have to let go for the democracy to work – that there has to be fresh legs, there have to be new people, and you have to have the humility to recognize that you’re a citizen and you go back to being a citizen after this office is over.”
Elsewhere, POTUS discussed topics including religion, food purity, the military industrial complex, socialism, media, marijuana, and opioids, the latter of which he called “the biggest drug crisis right now.” While Maher’s interest was in the legalization of marijuana and having common drugs laws nationally, which Obama addressed, the president turned his concern to the bigger issue. “Many [opioids] are legal and ravaging communities all across the country,” he said, “For us to re-sort how we think about these problems and not think of everything through the criminal justice lens but also through the public lens, I think is something that going to need to happen.”
Regarding media, Obama questions how “we create a space where truth gets eyeballs and is entertaining and we can build a common conversation.”
He said, “What is true, when I leave here, one of the things I’m most concerned about is the Balkanization of the media where you’ve got 800 stations, you got all these websites — people have difficulty now just sorting out what’s true and what’s not. And if you don’t have some common baseline of facts — we can have a disagreement about how to deal with climate change, but if we have a big chunk of the country that just discounts what 99 percent of the scientists say completely, it’s very hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.”