National Public Radio’s Steve Inskeep was back at it by scoring another interview with one of his favorite subjects in President Obama (with the transcript released on July 1) and included questions from the left on immigration reform, Donald Trump threatening to stand in Obama’s way of becoming a leftist Ronald Reagan, and white anger/privilege being a centerpiece of the 2016 election.
Naturally, the sit-down began on a gushy note as Inskeep informed the President that “we are doing a documentary” highlighting “places where you have given speeches over the years to just talk with people about how their lives have changed” during his presidency.
The first topic concerned lack of trust in government that Inskeep properly diagnosed as having grown worse in Obama’s two terms but the President quickly blamed Fox News for presenting “a different set of facts than if you’re reading the New York Times editorial page” and thus having “increased the polarization and that it makes it harder for people to sort through who is telling the truth.”
Inskeep shot back that the President always has “the biggest megaphone” over any media outlet so he wondered if he’s “accountable” for why Americans don’t trust their government right now, but he didn’t push any further.
Of course, the late-June interview included some discussion of the Brexit vote and whether or not it proves “globalization is not working” and if it could be brushed aside as an example of where people are “fearful of change” with “[i]mmigrants...bring[ing] new ideas, new cultures, different religions, other things.”
Turning to immigration, Inskeep sought to relay complaints from a new Hispanic-American citizen who thought Obama should have gone further in implementing liberal causes like immigration reform when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House for two years:
He knows that you won the Latino vote very heavily in both your elections. And speaking about the failure to pass immigration reform, he said of you, he used us. He used our votes. Felt you should have done it when you had a chance when you had a Democratic Congress, you should have done more. What would you say to him?
Naturally, the President blamed the inaction of the Supreme Court for deadlocking 4-4 on his executive order on amnesty from 2014. Of course, this cop-out went unchallenged by the sympathetic NPR host.
On race, Inskeep touted the story of Black Lives Matter activist from Baltimore who wanted to express his disapproval with Obama condemning the violence he and other activists were not able to guard against and accused him of being too privileged to understand what was happening:
And he was unhappy with a statement that you made at the time, when you were supportive of peaceful protests but also criticized what you called criminals and thugs who had looted stores. He felt that you were being too harsh and went on to say in our interview that you were speaking from a position of privilege, his suggestion being that maybe you didn't quite get what was going on in the streets. What would you say to him?
“If I were to summarize what else this young man said, I might say that he feels that he is trying to overturn what he sees is a racist or corrupt system and that you've become part of it,” Inskeep added in a follow-up from the left.
The playing of the race card only continued as Inskeep recalled then-candidate Obama’s 2008 speech in Philadelphia on race and noted that, in a less talked about section of the speech:
There's another passage which I hadn't even noticed before, in which you say there is a similar anger among some in the white community who don't feel particularly privileged by their race and do feel frustrated that they're losing jobs, losing pensions, feel like they're losing ground.
Inskeep used this as a springboard to wonder if white anger and privilege were at the center of the 2016 election: “Looking back, were you describing there the same force that is driving much of our election discussion here in 2016?”
In his second-to-last line of questioning, Inskeep played up the fears on the left that a Trump presidency could stand in the way of Obama “changing the trajectory of the country” like Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were able to have on America:
We ran across a statement of yours from 2008 about changing the trajectory of the country. You said that Ronald Reagan had changed the trajectory of the country, partly because the country was ready for it. It was his moment. That John F. Kennedy had done the same thing, because it was the right moment. The country was going in a certain direction.
You wanted to see such a moment. You believed there was such a moment for you in 2008. Is there a risk that Donald Trump could say the same thing in 2016, that he could be the man to change the trajectory of the country now?
Rounding out the nearly-hour-long interview, Inskeep begged to know how much being Presidnet has changed Obama as a person:
INSKEEP: Last question, Mr. President. We've gone across the country, we've gone across the country asking people how their lives have changed in the last eight years. That was the basic question. How has your life changed in the last eight years?
OBAMA: Well, everybody's teased me about how gray I am and that's OK. My daughters have —
INSKEEP: That picture of you and Derek Jeter, that was something. That was — that was some gray. But go on, go on, I'm sorry.