Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

President Obama talks Trump, the daughter he's scared of, and surprises a fan

Joyce Taylor, President Barack Obama, Jimmy Kimmel
Joyce Taylor, President Barack Obama, Jimmy Kimmel
Screenshot: Jimmy Kimmel Live

Look, no President is perfect. No one who navigates the muck of United States politics all the way through to the presidency is going to emerge squeaky clean. But considering the bloviating buffoon we’ve just endured for four years—and who we’ve collectively kicked back out into the cold, eager prosecutor- and creditor-filled world—sitting down with former President Barack Obama for 20 minutes is like a goddamned vacation from daily madness, idiocy, and willful ignorance. Just ask one Joyce Taylor, a nice lady and Obama enthusiast from Maryland, who, in the closing segment of Obama’s appearance on Thursday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, found herself face-to-virtual-face with the former President himself.

Kimmel, ever the fan of goofy but gratifying surprises, set things up with the former head of state so that he’d appear to just be a pre-recorded clip of him reading from his new, 700-page autobiography, A Promised Land. The nice lady was already excited enough at that, before Obama slipped in to his reading a reference to all the wonderful people who’ve supported him, especially that nice Joyce from Maryland. Joyce went nuts, the former President was delighted, Kimmel popped in to remind Joyce that she could be glad he was there, too, if she wanted, and it was essentially a few minutes of pure silliness and joy. Remember those?

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Anyway, prior to that, Kimmel peppered the once-more best-selling author with questions about the massive book (which is only part one), eliciting answers filled with complete sentences, a sense of humor, and a complete lack of conspiracy theories, racial slurs, or whiny self-justification. Of course, President Obama did a lot more than that in his wide-ranging and refreshingly human interview, but our expectations have been set so beneath low for these past four years, that, like Joyce, the interview itself was enough to bring a profound sense of gratitude. Obama did take some (polished, policy-based) shots at the current, outgoing resident of his old house, noting that incoming President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are already hard at work with plans to undo some of Trump’s (intentionally or incompetently) worst choices. (Day one will see Biden reinstating the carefully assembled pandemic task force Obama and he set up—and that Trump summarily shit-canned right before, you know, a pandemic.)

As to Trump’s desperate, consequences-dodging cling to the cliffs of ill-applied power, the former President, while not addressing the current coup/sedition/anti-democratic bullshit Trump and the Republican Party are scurrilously engaged in, did point to his predecessor as an example of how you hand over the keys with something resembling human class and dignity. While diplomatically saying there were plenty of policy things they disagreed on, Obama called George W. Bush “a good man” (eh), and “a patriot” (comparative to Trump, maybe) for ensuring that the incoming Obama administration would have all the vital, potentially life-saving information (and funding) it needed to hit the ground running. You know, since W had left Obama with a looming financial crisis (which President Obama then turned into a prosperous not-crisis). Overall, the former president was his usual measured, charismatic self, alternating stories about his family, and drawing distinction between the more peaceful “long faces” (him and Malia) clashing with the more combative “round faces” (Michelle and Sasha). The former leader of the free world confided to Kimmel that the latter tribe has him constantly on his toes. (Hey, remember when it appeared that the president’s family wasn’t a horrible grifting clan of seething resentment and unrequited feeling?)

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Anyway, Kimmel did note that A Promised Land has, in the days since its release, sold almost a million copies (seemingly unaided, it should be said, by inflated numbers from pandering party hacks). Asking if he teases wife Michelle that his sales, so far, are slightly better than hers when it comes to White House memoirs, the Obama conceded that, while he’s sold “a tad more,” “I’m not rubbing it in over dinner.” Good call, Mr. President.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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