Updated Nov 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Key takeaways from Obama's "60 Minutes" interview

A screenshot from former President Obama's "60 Minutes" interview

A screenshot from former President Obama's "60 Minutes" interview

Former President Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday there's been a "truth decay" in American politics and it's "been accelerated by outgoing President Trump."

Driving the news: Obama made the comments in response to CBS' Scott Pelley's question on what he meant in his upcoming book that "our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of a crisis." Obama said he meant in "the sense that not only do we not have to tell the truth, but the truth doesn't even matter."

What else he's saying: On Trump's refusal to concede his election loss to President-elect Biden, Obama noted that "a president is a public servant."

  • "They are temporary occupants of the office, by design. And when your time is up then it is your job to put the country first and think beyond your own ego, and your own interests, and your own disappointments," he added.
"My advice to President Trump is, if you want at this late stage in the game to be remembered as somebody who put country first, it's time for you to do the same thing."

On the stalled transition's impact on how U.S. adversaries view the country, Obama said: "I think our adversaries have seen us weakened, not just as a consequence of this election, but over the last several years.

  • "We have these cleavages in the body politic that [Russia and China are] convinced they can exploit."

(Of note: Obama doubled down on this point in an interview with NPR that airs in full later Monday — saying the transition issue is "yet one more example of how Donald Trump's breach of basic democratic norms is hurting the American people.")

On the massive number of votes that both presidential candidates received, Obama said: "It tells us that we're very divided. ... it's not just the politicians now. The voters are divided.

  • "It has now become a contest where issues, facts, policies per se don't matter as much as identity and wanting to beat the other guy ... that's taken priority," he continued.
  • "I do think the current media environment adds to that greatly. This democracy doesn't work if we don't have an informed citizenry."

On Obama's 2008 presidential run, Pelley noted that the former president writes in his book that former first lady Michelle Obama was opposed to the move. "Why did that not stop you?" Pelley asked.

  • "It's a legitimate question," Obama replied, noting his earlier runs for the U.S. and state Senates, his unsuccessful congressional bid and the fact they had "two young kids, Michelle's still working."
" I ask myself in the book ... 'How much of this is just megalomania? How much of this is vanity? How much of this is me trying to-- prove something to myself?' And over time she made a conclusion that, 'I shouldn't stand in the way of this. ... and she did so grudgingly. And the fact that I ended up winning didn't necessarily alleviate her frustration because the toll it takes on families is real."

Go deeper: Obama addresses Trump transition in first interview since election

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details from the program and also Obama's comments to NPR.

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