In an exit interview published Monday, President Obama said he could have gotten most American voters behind him if he had been able to run again.
Speaking with his former senior adviser and current CNN contributor David Axelrod, Obama said the vision of “one America” he first vocalized in a famous 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention still holds true.
“The problem is, it doesn't always manifest itself in politics, right?” the president said. “You know, I am confident in this vision because I'm confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could've mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.”
Naming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell’s gambit to save the Supreme Court paid off Overnight Healthcare: High drama for ObamaCare vote | Freedom Caucus chair 'optimistic' about deal | Trump woos right High drama for ObamaCare vote MORE (R-Ky.) and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, Obama said Republicans “specifically mobilized a backlash to this vision” of an America united around causes of common good.
Obama accused McConnell of acting “very cynically” in rejecting the United States the president tried to bring out. Republicans, he said in the lengthy interview produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, “can just just throw sand in the gears” and prove disunity through their own actions.
“That if we just say no, then that will puncture the balloon, that all this talk about hope and change and no red state and blue state is — is proven to be a mirage, a fantasy.”
Obama, then a state senator in Illinois, seized the spotlight at the 2004 convention in Boston with a brief but sweeping speech outlining his own biography and his optimism even "in the face of difficulty.”
Speaking with Axelrod in the White House, Obama said the victory of Republican President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHarmful budget cuts won’t help GOP in 2018 and beyond McConnell’s gambit to save the Supreme Court paid off Tillerson to embassies: ID groups for tougher screening MORE does not mean those dreams have failed.
“Obviously in the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have — have suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy,” said Obama, who leaves office in less than a month. “What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and — and full of energy and dynamism.”
Trump, who won with an “America first” platform, has repeatedly accused Obama of apologizing for U.S. policy. An early promoter of the “birther” movement, which questioned Obama’s citizenship, Trump has pledged to crack down on illegal immigration and reduce government regulation as part of his campaign pledge to “make America great again.”
But Obama said most Americans still subscribe to his own 2008 campaign vision of hope and change.
“Now, I would argue that during the entire eight years that I've been president, that spirit of America has still been there in all sorts of ways,” he said. It manifests itself in communities all across the country. "We see it in this younger generation that is smarter, more tolerant, more innovative, more creative, more entrepreneurial, would not even think about, you know, discriminating somebody against, for example, because of their sexual orientation."