For President Barack Obama, leaving the White House last January meant he could sleep in, go on vacation and figure out how to work his home coffee machine. Nearly a year later, the former president continues to enjoy the perks of private life, while also publicly sharing his concerns about the future of American democracy.
In a wide-ranging interview as part of the inaugural episode of David Letterman’s Netflixshow, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” Obama says Russian election meddling exploited an existing dissonance between voters.
“One of the biggest challenges that we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts,” Obama said. “What the Russians exploited, but it was already here, is we are operating in completely different information universes.
“If you are getting all your information off algorithms being sent off a phone, and it is just reinforcing whatever biases you have, which is a pattern. … At a certain point you just live in a bubble,” he added.
Obama did not discuss his successor’s administration, but the Donald Trump White House was not off-limits for the show’s host.
In a separate interview included throughout Letterman’s discussion with Obama, the talk-show host took a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Georgia Congressman John Lewis. As the pair walked across the bridge where Lewis marched alongside other nonviolent demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in March 1965, Letterman asked about whether he saw the Trump administration as “a setback.”
“It is a major setback to the hopes, the dreams and the aspiration of a people,” Lewis said. “Not just African-American, but all Americans.”
In December, the civil rights icon boycotted the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum because of the president’s attendance. Tension between Lewis and the current president stretch back to last January when Lewis skipped Trump’s inauguration and said he did not view him “as a legitimate president.”
At the time, Trump hit back on Twitter, saying Lewis’s Georgia district was in “horrible shape” and “crime-infested” and the congressman is “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”
“I said this man doesn’t know anything about me,” Lewis told Letterman. “All my life I’ve been active and speaking up; I was arrested and jailed 40 times in the ’60s and five times since I’ve been in Congress.”
Despite being at odds with the White House, Lewis remains optimistic about the nation’s future.
“There may be some setbacks, some delays, some interruptions, but if you take a long hard look we will get there,” he said. “We will redeem the soul of America.