Obama claims Boehner, McCain would privately ‘badmouth’ Republicans to him
In his soon-to-be-released memoir, former President Barack Obama said that former House Speaker John Boehner and the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) would “badmouth” their fellow Republicans to him “in private.” This revelation seems to confirm what many Republicans have suspected for years.
“[Boehner] and I had a perfectly good relationship, but he had to act a certain way for his caucus. He would badmouth many of them to me, in private. Much as John McCain did. The issue was never personal — Mitch McConnell is not buddy-buddy with anyone,” Obama told The Atlantic in an interview ahead of the release of his presidential memoir’s first volume.
Obama called McConnell ‘power-hungry’. He stated that what the Kentucky senator “lacked in charisma or interest in policy he more than made up for in discipline, shrewdness, and shamelessness — all of which he employed in the single-minded and dispassionate pursuit of power.”
In the interview, Obama went on to defend himself by saying that a lack of bipartisan agreement during his presidency was not for his lack of trying. “The issue with Republicans is not that I didn’t court them enough,” he stated. “We would invite them to everything: movie nights, state dinners, Camp David, you name it. The issue was not a lack of schmoozing. The issue was that they found it politically advantageous to demonize me and the Democratic Party.”
Obama went on, “This was amplified by media outlets like Fox News. Their voters believed this, and over time Republicans became so successful in their demonization that it became very difficult for them to compromise, or even be seen being friendly.”
Both McCain and Boehner were viewed as weak moderates in the Republican Party; many times siding more with Democrats than other Republicans. When President Trump was elected, he took the gloves off with John McCain, criticizing him for voting against repealing the Affordable Care Act, which Obama has touted as one of his greatest accomplishments.
Obama also went after Sarah Palin in the interview. He tracked the populist shift inside the Republican Party to the election that made him president. It was Sarah Palin, John McCain’s 2008 running mate, he said, who helped unleash the populist wave: “The power of Palin’s rallies compared with McCain’s rallies—just contrast the excitement you would see in the Republican base. I think this hinted at the degree to which appeals around identity politics, around nativism, conspiracies, were gaining traction.”
He also said on Palin, “Through Palin, it seemed as if the dark spirits that had long been lurking on the edges of the modern Republican Party — xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, and antipathy toward Black and brown folks — were finding their way to center stage.”
Obama stated that populism was encouraged to spread by social-media companies uninterested in exploring their impact on democracy. “I don’t hold the tech companies entirely responsible,” he said, “because this predates social media. It was already there. But social media has turbocharged it. I know most of these folks. I’ve talked to them about it. The degree to which these companies are insisting that they are more like a phone company than they are like The Atlantic, I do not think is tenable. They are making editorial choices, whether they’ve buried them in algorithms or not. The First Amendment doesn’t require private companies to provide a platform for any view that is out there.”
He went on to say, “If we do not have the capacity to distinguish what’s true from what’s false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas doesn’t work. And by definition, our democracy doesn’t work. We are entering into an epistemological crisis.”
In an interview on CBS Sunday, Obama steadfastly defended his recent attacks against President Trump.
While Obama has been mostly quiet during Trump’s term in office, towards the end of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, he once again stepped into the limelight politically. In a break from normalcy, a former president actively campaigned for his former vice president against a sitting president.
“It is not my preference to be out there,” Obama claimed. “I think we were in a circumstance in this election in which certain norms, certain institutional values that are so extraordinarily important, had been breached that it was important for me as somebody who had served in that office, to simply let people know this is not normal.”