What the prez?: 15 most revealing quotes from President Obama’s chat with Marc Maron

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On June 19, President Barack Obama took a few hours away from the Situation Room to Marc Maron’s garage for the latest episode of the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. Here are the 15 most revealing quotes from President Obama’s chat:

He does not want to give his daughters his craziness

Even the leader of the free world has some idiosyncrasies like the rest of us, and no one gets a better look at them than his family, especially his children. To President Obama, the mark of a great parent is the lack of crazy you give to your child:

“I’ve said this to Michelle. One of our biggest jobs as parents, because we’re all a little bit crazy, is let’s see if we can not pass on some of our craziness to our kids.” 

Thinks his wife grew up Like Leave It To Beaver

President Obama moved from Hawaii to America for the second and final time in 1979 when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, but Michelle had a different childhood:

“[Michelle] had this opposite experience growing up. It was really Leave It To Beaver. Dad, mom, brother live in the same place for her entire childhood.”

On what it means to be black

Growing up, President Obama had to figure out who he was through a careful balancing that required him to face a few truths about himself:

“These are the contradictions I had to work out. My mother was the biggest influence on my life and this wonderful woman. But, I am raised without a dad. An African-American, but not grounded in a place with a lot of African American culture. I’m seen and viewed as a black man in America. What does that mean?”

He has a journal

“I started keeping a journal when I was 20. Kept it until I went to law school. So for about seven years.”

Mass shootings are “normal” to the American people

In just the second term of Obama’s presidency, America has been wrecked by mass shootings in New Jersey, Colorado, and recently at a South Carolina church in a racially-motivated murder spree:

“There’s no other advanced nation on Earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal. To some degree, that’s what’s happened to this country. It’s become something we expect.”

Was disgusted with Congress

In April, Obama told ABC News he was “shocked” Congress did not act to strengthen gun laws following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This time, his choice of words was a bit more impassioned:

“Right after Sandy Hook in Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down and Congress literally does nothing, yeah, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted.”

On Congress failing to act on climate change

President Obama is all for out-of-the-box problem solving, but doesn’t see much value in trying to disprove climate change with a snowball.

“It would be a lot more helpful if we had cooperation from Congress. If I didn’t have the chairman of the Energy & Environment Committee in the Senate holding up a snowball as if that was proof that climate change wasn’t happening. That would be useful.”

Thinks the media helps make people cynical of politics

President Obama has a love-hate relationship with the media and famously got into a heated argument with Bill O’Reilly in an interview following last year’s Super Bowl. Obama still thinks Fox News is helping confuse the American people:

Obama OReilly Interview

Fox Sports

“The media is so splintered now that we’re not in a common conversation. The fact that if you watch Fox News you inhabit a completely different world with different facts than if you read then New York Times.

On why he’s not a Washington schmoozer

Being a father and having a social life is difficult without adding a U.S. presidency on top, and a social life that involves “schmoozing” with government officials:

“Some of the mythology of me being very professorial and removed. That stuff is actually … I think it has to do with me not schmoozing enough in Washington, because I got two kids. It’s true, I don’t do the cocktail circuit.”

He thinks racism is far bigger than the N-word

President Obama told Marc Maron he believes race relations have irrefutably improved in the past 30 years, but racism is still rampant. To the President, racism is more than simply spewing epitaphs:

“It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination.”

Police are asked to keep the poor from making trouble

The police are here to protect and to serve. President Obama does not doubt they are protecting, but, at times for complicated reasons:

“Part of the reason cops have a really tough job, particularly in big cities, is that there are communities that are poor, are systematically locked out of opportunity, that suffer from legacies of discrimination that have been built up over generations and we send cops in there basically to say ‘keep those folks from making too much trouble.'”

The Secret Service gives his daughters more freedom than he would

President Obama’s two daughters have had to adjust their entire lives to constantly being watched, by the public and their security detail. While some may see that as oppressive, President Obama knows the opposite would be even worse:

“Malia [Obama], as she started to get older, started to chafe about Secret Service. I had to explain to her, ‘sweetie let me tell you something. If you think you’d be over at your friends house until 11:30 PM and then I’d be coming to pick you up, you’re crazy. So, the only reason you’re out, is because you got a detail, otherwise you’d be home.”

He sucks at basketball now

Google “President Obama playing basketball” and you’ll see the leader of the free world showing off his skills against journalists, students and even NBA superstars. But, like all great ball players before him, it may be time to hang up the shorts:

“I used to play basketball more, but these days I’ve gotten to the point where it’s not as much fun, because I’m not as good as I used to be and I get frustrated. Now I’m like one of these old guys, running around. The guys I play with, who are all a lot younger, they sort of pity me and sympathize with me. They tolerate me. We all know I’m the weak link on the court.”

Thinks the U.S. society is like a ship

President Obama wants the American people to know you can not turn water into wine, or a complex health care system into a simpler one overnight. After saying government is like middle management, he delves into that further:

“Sometimes the task of the government is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the Ocean liner two degrees North or South so that 10 years from now, we’re in a very different place than we were. But, at the moment people may feel like we need a 50-degree turn. We don’t need a two degree turn. You say ‘well, if I turn 50 degrees, the whole ship turns. And you can’t turn 50 degrees.”

Enjoys self-deprecating humor

Richard Pryor is one of President Obama’s favorite comedians since childhood, so it’s no wonder he still loves a good “I hate myself” joke:

“[Louis C.K.] is wonderful in such a self-deprecating, but edgy kind of way. Basically good hearted even when he’s saying stuff that’s pretty wrong.”

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