Oct 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama: If Biden's elected, "he's gonna have to rebuild" the State Dept

Former U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the virtual convention on August 19

Former President Obama addresses the virtual Democratic National Convention on Aug. 19. Photo: DNCC via Getty Images

Former President Obama said Joe Biden would "have to rebuild" the State Department if he were elected next month, as he lambasted his successor and the Trump administration on the "Pod Save America" podcast Wednesday.

Details: Obama praised Biden for his "restraint and humility" and confidence in diplomacy. "[T]hat instinct that I think is going to trickle out, partly because he's gonna have to rebuild a State Department where some of the best people have been driven out systematically because they weren't willing to tow Trump's ideological agenda," he said.

"[Biden] was probably the person who was most restrained in terms of use of military force among my senior advisers during the course of my presidency. "

What else he's saying:

On foreign policy, Obama accused President Trump of not being "all that active internationally."

"The truth is he doesn't have the patience and ... the focus to really substantially change a lot of U.S. foreign policy," he said. "What he's done is he's systematically tried to decimate our entire foreign policy infrastructure."

On Trump's tweets accusing his predecessor of spying on his campaign and other serious alleged abuses that the president has said should see him indicted, Obama said other Republicans "tend to just pretend it doesn't happen."

  • Obama said he didn't read the tweet in which Trump suggested he should be indicted. "The allegations are so absurd that even Republican controlled committees looking into it have dismissed them," he said. "And I'm concerned about it."
  • He said that Attorney General Bill Barr had "dismissed" the claims. He added this was an example of a larger problem: "the politicization of the criminal justice system, the intelligence system, the military," which he noted as a central foundation of democracy.

Hillary Clinton faced the "same thing" from Trump with the " lock her up" theme, Obama said.

  • "I'm not surprised by it, that it continues. I'm disappointed that Republicans who know better have not checked him on this," he added.
  • "I think on a very important question after the election, even if it goes well with Joe Biden, is whether you start seeing the Republican Party restore some sense of 'here are norms that we can't breach' because he's breached all of them and they have not said to him, 'this is too far.'"

On misinformation and conspiracy theories, Obama said the problem would "outlast Trump."

  • "Trump is a symptom of it and an accelerant to it. But he did not create it. .. when you look at insane conspiracy theories like QAnon seeping into the mainstream of the Republican Party, what that tells you is that there are no more guardrails within that media ecosystem," he said.

Context: At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory movement or some of its tenets.

  • The Trump-endorsed Lauren Boebert, a QAnon supporter, defeated five-term Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado's June 30 Republican primary for the 3rd congressional district.
  • The Trump administration and Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Go deeper