With two months left in Barack Obama‘s tenure as president, he finally – after years of interview requests from Real Time – sat down with Bill Maher for an extensive interview that touched on topics like marijuana legalization, “food purity,” socialism, Donald Trump and more.
Maher broadcasted an 18-minute version of the interview on Real Time Friday; find his complete 37-minute chat with Obama in the video above.
A large portion of the interview was also dedicated to the mainstream media, with Maher criticizing how the news has become a for-profit industry and blaming certain networks for shaping their viewers’ stance on issues. Both Maher and Obama agreed that the common citizen should bear more of the onus of being politically involved.
“Even a pretty capable, well-meaning president is going to only be able to take the country so far without people, ordinary folks all across the country, being engaged, being involved, being active,” Obama said.
“People are busy, people are stressed. They don’t have the time to follow the intricacies of some debate around Medicare and what’s going on in Syria. When I say I want a government as good as the American people, what I mean by that is that I think people’s instincts – their gut, what they want out of life, how they want to see people treated – is pretty good. The question then becomes how do we get enough information in front of them to be able to make good decisions.”
“If I could sit in the living room with every person in America, I’ve got the majority on my side, and a healthy majority on my side. The problem is, we’ve got all these filters,” Obama added. “Look, if I watched Fox News, I probably wouldn’t vote for me either. Because you’ve got this screen, this funhouse mirror, through which people are receiving their information. How to break through that is a real challenge.”
Earlier in the interview, Obama said, “I think the question I’d have when it comes to the media is, ‘How do we create a space where the truth gets eyeballs and is entertaining,’ and we can build a common conversation… You’ve got 800 stations, you have all these websites, and people have difficulty sorting out what’s true.”
On the subject of marijuana reform – “Is that something you care about?” Obama jokingly asked Maher, knowing the host’s stance on the topic – the president admitted that his reluctance to move on the issue is tied to the “public health problem” that is smoking in general; Obama, an “ex-smoker,” said he’s now reliant on nicotine gum.
“There is this enormous public health effort to get kids to not start smoking. And make sure the parents felt guilty if they were passing on that habit with their kids,” Obama said. “So that’s where I think we need to go with pot, alcohol. So I don’t think legalization is a panacea but I think that we’re going to need to have a more serious conversation about how we’re treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.”
Obama noted that the results of marijuana reform referendums throughout the country this Election Day could spark that conversation.
The interview wrapped when an aide signaled Obama that he had to go; he was Ohio-bound to campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Before exiting, Maher and Obama talked about what’s at risk in this “tense” election.
“The stakes are high,” Obama said. “I will say this: The choice in this election should be really clear. And anybody who is watching your show and was a supporter of mine or a supporter of Bernie or is a progressive generally, this idea that ‘both of them have problems and nothing will change,’ listen… every single issue that we’ve made progress on over the last eight years is going to be on the ballot in the form of this choice.”