For one of his final exit interviews before departing the White House, President Barack Obama at long last sat down with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. (Blame Noah’s very busy schedule for the delay.) In honor of the career milestone, Noah dedicated the entirety of Monday night’s episode to chatting with Obama for a very candid and long conversation about both pressing matters of national security as well as a matter close to both Obama and Noah’s heart: racism. Asked directly why he’s ordered a full intelligence review of the Russian hack of the Democratic and Republican National Committees to be completed before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Obama tells America that it’s not about what the Russians hacked, but how and why they did it. “None of this should be a big surprise,” he says, noting that the hack was acknowledged throughout the election by Trump himself and that none of the information leaked should have been disconcerting or newsworthy. Instead, Obama questioned the media and presidential campaign coverage of the hack: “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?”
Obama also recommended that Noah take Trump’s comments about refusing intelligence briefings with a grain of salt. “The president-elect may say one thing and do another once he’s here, because the truth of the matter is that it’s a big, complicated world,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you have to have the best information possible to make the best decisions possible.” And because America’s future on policy, specifically those he enacted, is so uncertain, Obama urged Americans to get Obamacare while they still can. “You should sign up now and count on the fact that you’re gonna have health insurance for a while,” he explains.
The comprehensive interview ends with an admittedly “selfish” question from Noah that speaks to both his and Obama’s biracial background and its unavoidable impact their daily lives: How do you speak your truth about racism — not just as America’s first black president but as a black man in America — while not alienating white people? Obama, careful too in even the wording of his answer, responded honestly: “There has not been a time in my public life or my presidency where I feel as if I have had to bite my tongue.” But rather than call people racists, he says he’s had the more difficult and somewhat modern challenge of engaging with veiled racism as best as he knows how. “I try to comport myself in a way that my mother would approve of.” Watch the full interview above.