On the first episode of David Letterman’s new Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Letterman sits down with former president Barack Obama for a wide-ranging chat about his new foundation, his kids, and how they both enjoyed some vacation time after their old jobs. One name that never comes up, however, is “Donald Trump.” Both Obama and Letterman make occasional reference to the country’s current fraught political climate, but neither mentions the current president directly.
In one section of the interview, Letterman does ask Obama, in a roundabout way, about the the threat of possible Russian meddling in the last presidential election. “What is more damaging to that democracy? Would it be the diminishment, by the head of democracy, of press? Or would it be somebody screwing around with the actual voting process?” Letterman asks. Obama, however, drives the conversation toward the way in which the internet and social media have fractured the political discussion.
“One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts,” Obama says. “If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you listen to NPR.” In the last election, he admits he underestimated the way in which special interests, big corporations, or even foreign governments can manipulate social media to propagandize. “At a certain point, you just live in a bubble, and that’s part of why our politics is so polarized right now.”
To anyone hoping that the Obamas might swoop in and return to presidential politics, Obama also says that is a no-go. “If it were not for the Constitution, there’d be Michelle,” he said to cheers from the audience, then clarified that he doesn’t mean she would be the next president: “I’m prevented from running again by the Constitution, but even if it were not for that amendment, Michelle would leave me. I want her around.”