This morning, I woke up, took a shower, and while making the kids their breakfasts and lunches, I watched David Letterman’s Netflix interview with President Obama. What a surreal experience. Because while I’m watching two of my all-time favorite people chat with each other, and while my kids — who were all in unusually sweet moods, asking with interest about Obama and John Lewis (who makes an appearance in the Netflix special) — were eating their breakfast, I’m also getting desktop notifications popping up over the screen with news about Donald Trump ranting about The Wall, lying about why he’s not going to London, and denying but not really denying that he called El Salvador and Haiti “shitholes.”
It was such a surreal experience, to see these two well-spoken, intelligent guys speak thoughtfully about voting rights, about their pasts, and their families, and all I could think was: My God, were we lucky! We did not deserve President and Michelle Obama, but what an amazing gift it was to have that man lead our country for eight years. And the juxtaposition of what I was watching and the news from the real world that was bleeding through was stunning, that we could go from that to this in such a short period of time. It was barely more than a year ago that we lived in a country where we could be proud of our leader, when you could look to the news every day and feel hopeful, but also able to better engage with that breakfast you were making for the kids because you weren’t worried about the raving lunatic who currently occupies the Oval Office.
It’s such an inspiring interview — and you might get misty from time to time — but it’s a dispiriting interview, too, in a way, because it reminds us of what we used to be, what I worry we may never get back. What if my kids never get an Obama? What if all they ever know is this toxicity that emanates from the White House? I mean, you’ve got this brilliant man on stage talking about how lucky he was to be President, and how it took the efforts of so many to make that happen, and then you’ve got this guy on Twitter, who didn’t earn shit, bragging about himself and accomplishments that do not exist.
And that I think is the role President Obama needs to play over the next three years. The most important thing that Barack Obama can do is not to engage with Donald Trump, but to be a presence in the world, to go on television, to give speeches, and just exist as a reminder of what this country was and what it can be again. Or at least I hope it can be. Obama gives us something to aspire to, and every day that he’s on TV is a reminder of what life is supposed to look like. The unflattering juxtaposition of President Obama and President Trump is maybe the most effective, powerful political tool in existence.
“When I was a kid, and it’s still taught today,” Dave says to Obama at the end of the interview. “Irrespective of the man or woman who holds the office, you have to respect the office of President. Without a question of a doubt, you are the first President I truly and fully respect.”
Same, Dave. Same. And more now than ever.