The Atlantic Daily: Our Interview With Barack Obama

Three key quotes from the former president’s conversation with editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg

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Jordan Casteel. Photo of painting: David Schulze

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.

Read their conversation in full.

Christopher Furlong / Getty

One question, answered: First Pfizer. Now Moderna. Should news of a second company's promising vaccine-trial data change our expectations?

I asked our staff writer Sarah Zhang, who covers vaccines, to put this latest development in context:

It’s more good news! Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines work in very similar ways, so it’s not surprising that they are similarly effective. I’m also relieved because Moderna’s vaccine does not require ultracold storage like Pfizer’s, meaning it will be a lot easier to distribute in rural communities. Both companies are manufacturing vaccines as we speak, and this second success means more doses to go around in the initial scarcity phase. We just have to wait and get through this winter.

In the meantime, revisit Sarah’s piece on how vaccine rollout may happen during a particularly tricky period.

Want to better understand the ongoing coronavirus outbreak? Here are three key stories from our team:

Stuck on what to watch? Let us help:

Season 4 of Netflix’s The Crown takes the shine off of Queen Elizabeth's reign, our staff writer Shirley Li argues.

Today’s break from the news:

Forget SNL. The best election satire is on TikTok, Hannah Giorgis writes.

Dear Therapist

Christopher Furlong / Getty

In her latest column, Lori Gottlieb advises a reader whose husband had a “sexting” affair:

I know this happened many years ago, but I am totally shattered. I thought we had a great relationship that was honest and loving, but now I am suspicious of everything he does.

Read the rest, and Lori’s response. Every week, she answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Write to Lori anytime at

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