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Obama on ‘Daily Show’: I Won’t Stay Quiet During Trump’s Presidency

When Trevor Noah took over “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in 2015, he had enormous shoes to fill. Stewart, known as much for his emotional honesty as his acerbic wit, presided over some of the more tumultuous moments in recent history, from the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, to Benghazi. His interviews — with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and many others — were the stuff of legend. Poised, direct, at times aggressive, at times reflective, Stewart knew perhaps better than anyone when to speak and when to listen. 

If recent interviews are any indications, Trevor Noah is poised to fill the late-night vacuum Stewart left wide open. While he received equal praise and criticism for his interview with conservative talk-show host Tomi Lahren, Noah has undeniably developed a style that is direct, respectful, and, perhaps unlike Stewart, disarmingly personal. 

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His interview with President Barack Obama Monday night is a case and point. Noah kept the jokes to a minimum and let Obama speak freely, without interruptions. What came of this was a wide-ranging interview in which we saw the president talk through his legacy, both personal and political, and the challenges facing the United States under President-elect Trump.  

Here are some highlights from the conversation: 


Obama on Russia, the DNC hack, and the state of US democracy:

“What is it about our political ecosystem, what is it about the state of our democracy, where the leaks of what were, frankly, not very interesting emails, that didn’t have any explosive information in them, ended up being an obsession, and the fact that the Russians were doing this, was not an obsession?” 

On Trump rejecting intelligence briefings:  

“I think the president may say one thing and do another while he’s here … It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you have to have the best information possible to make the best decisions possible.” 

On climate change: 

“[The Republican Party] may change policy on climate change, but climate change is still climate change. It’s still happening. If the oceans are still going up and some streets in Miami, a mile or two from where the president-elect has a golf course, are flooding on sunny days, salt water coming up through the ground, that’s still going to have to be dealt with one way or another.”

Read more: 4 Things Obama's Done to Slow Climate Change

On immigration:

“If I thought that a Muslim registry was being set up that violates the Constitution and violates who we are, and would make us less safe because it would make it easier for groups like ISIL to recruit and radicalize homegrown terrorists, I might have to say something about that.” 

“If I saw Dream Act kids, young people who were brought here as children who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans, suddenly being rounded up — contrary to who we are as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants — I might have to say something about that.”

On changing the role of the federal government: 

“The federal government is an aircraft carrier, not a speed boat. Turning it around is difficult.”

On his role after the leaving the White House:

“I’ll be paying attention. I’ll be a citizen of this country that I love deeply.”

On speaking about race as president of the United States: 

“The challenge we face today when it comes to race is rarely the overt, Klansman-style racism, and typically has more to do with the fact that people got other stuff they want to talk about and it’s sort of uncomfortable.”

On not being able to use curse words during his tenure as president: 

“I try to comport myself in a way that my mother would approve of.”