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Barack Obama is somehow still hopeful.
The former president acknowledges the very real threats to democracy in this moment. But he urges Americans to take the long view and, within the time they have, work to make things better.
Our editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, sat down with Obama for his most extensive interview since he left the presidency. In a wide-ranging conversation, they discussed the rise of populism, the state of American politics, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan.
You can read their entire conversation on our site. To get you started, here are three key quotes from their discussion.
1. On Donald Trump as a phenomenon:
I will say that I’m not surprised that somebody like Trump could get traction in our political life. He’s a symptom as much as an accelerant. But if we were going to have a right-wing populist in this country, I would have expected somebody a little more appealing.
2. On Republicans refusing to stand up to him:
Donald Trump’s character and behavior haven’t surprised me … I didn’t expect him to significantly change.
I did not believe how easily the Republican establishment, people who had been in Washington for a long time and had professed a belief in certain institutional values and norms, would just cave.
3. On misinformation:
If we do not have the capacity to distinguish what’s true from what’s false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas doesn’t work. And by definition our democracy doesn’t work. We are entering into an epistemological crisis.
One question, answered: First Pfizer. Now Moderna. Should news of a second company's promising vaccine-trial data change our expectations?