Full Transcript of BuzzFeed’s Interview with President Obama


BuzzFeed News: So, eight years ago, today actually, you announced your campaign in Springfield. I read that speech last night and I was struck by how much it’s a generational call to your generation, I guess to some degree mine. You use the word “generation” 13 times in the speech. Now, two of the leading candidates for the next presidential nomination are of the previous generation, and I wonder if you find that at all disappointing?

President Obama: Well, they’re both obviously highly qualified candidates. Hillary Clinton I know much better than I know Jeb Bush, and I think she’d be an outstanding president. My understanding is that everybody else is younger than me, which—

Wasn’t that the idea?

Obama: —I guess matches up with my gray hair. But, you know ultimately what people are going to be looking for in the next president is what they always look for in a president and that is somebody who is attuned to the hopes and dreams of the American people at a particular moment in time. When I ran in 2008, I think what people understood was that the middle class had been left behind for a pretty long stretch of time. We had been involved in very costly wars that didn’t seem to have necessarily made us safer and they were looking for change and, you know, I suspect that the next candidates are going to be grappling with some of the issues that I talked about at the State of the Union: How can we make sure that we have broad-based prosperity now that we’re out of crisis? How do we deal with terrorism in a way that’s smart and effective? How do we address long-term issues like climate change that sometimes are really hard to do politically? So I think it will be a fascinating debate.

You were elected with this new coalition of young people, people of color, women, and I wonder, is that a coalition that the next Democratic nominee — Hillary Clinton or not — inherits?

Obama: I don’t think any president inherits a coalition. I think any candidate has to win over people based on what they stand for, what their message is, what their vision is for the future. I think what’s true is that I’ve done very well among younger Americans, and that’s always been something I’ve been very proud of: our ability to reach out to get people involved who traditionally have not always gotten involved or have been skeptical about politics. I think the fact that we got a lot of support from African-Americans or Latinos or Asian-Americans is just reflective of the shifts in the country. I think it’s also important to remember that I won Iowa, which doesn’t have one of the most diverse populations in the country. I think there’s been, you know, talk that there’s a need to reach out more to older Americans or middle America or white working-class families that Democrats haven’t done as well on, but that hasn’t been unique to me, that’s been going on for a while.

Do you think that’s right, that there is a need to reach out to them more?

Obama: I absolutely do. I think that one of the biggest challenges in our politics is always how do we get all of us to recognize what we have in common. And there’s so many forces that push us apart. Race is just one of them. You’ve got the rural-urban divide. You have states that are traditionally very Republican versus very Democrat. North-South. But one of the great things about being president is you travel around and it turns out everybody’s struggling with the same things, everybody’s hoping for the same things. People’s values are pretty common, and what I said during the State of the Union is something I still believe, which is that we are more unified than our politics would let on, and the question — particularly during presidential elections — is can we get our politics to give voice to those common things?

If I can move on to the Affordable Care Act. We reported yesterday that the office supply store Staples is — I’m sure this is an issue you’ve heard about before — is telling its workers that it will fire them if they work more than 25 hours a week. A manager had told a worker we talked to that “Obama’s responsible for this policy,” and they’re putting these notices on the wall of their break room saying that. I wonder what you’d say to the CEO of Staples, Ronald Sargent, about that policy?

Obama: What I would say is that millions of people are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. Satisfaction is high. The typical premium is less than 100 bucks.

But this is a specific consequence…

Obama: No, I’m gonna answer the question. And that there is no reason for an employer who is not currently providing health care to their workers to discourage them from either getting health insurance on the job or being able to avail themselves of the Affordable Care Act. I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security, and if they can’t, then they should be willing to allow those workers to get the Affordable Care Act without cutting wages. This is the same argument that I’ve made with respect to something like paid sick leave. We have 43 million Americans who, if they get sick or their child gets sick, are looking at either losing their paycheck or going to the job sick or leaving their child at home sick. It’s one thing when you’ve got a mom-and-pop store who can’t afford to provide paid sick leave or health insurance or minimum wage to workers — even though a large percentage of those small businesses do it because they know it’s the right thing to do — but when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers’ wages, shame on them.

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Source: BuzzFeed  | Ben Smith

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