As he prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address tonight, President Obama ripped Donald Trump, joking that the only way he could envision the billionaire GOP front-runner delivering the address would be if Trump was on late night television.
“Well, I can imagine it -- in a Saturday Night [Live] skit,” Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer in an interview.
“Look, anything's possible,” Obama admitted. “We shouldn't be complacent. I think everybody's gotta work hard.”
Lauer asked the president whether he feels “responsible for a certain hunger out there" for Trump.
“You know, talk to me if he wins,” Obama retorted. “Then we'll have a conversation about how responsible I feel about it.”
Obama added he was “pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of Americans” are looking for politics that feed their hopes and not their fears.
He recalled his memories of his first State of the Union address, when the Sergeant at Arms prepared to announce him to the House chamber and millions of people were watching on television.
“You walk down that row, and members of both parties are on either side, and they'll shake your hands and…all of government is gathered in one place,” Obama said. “It's not just that cheers. It's a sense of a celebration of democracy, and certainly the first time I did it, along with inauguration, it signifies that we can have peaceful transfers of power. So...there's no doubt that I will always remember the ritual.”
Lauer told Obama that tonight's address will position the president “looking out over a room that arguably is as divided as it has ever been.” So does Obama view that division as a failure of his presidency?
“It's a regret,” Obama admitted. “[But] I could not be prouder of what we've accomplished.”
Obama said his final address will strive to “remind people” of his administration’s accomplishments and that Americans “got a lotta good things going for us.”
“It is sometimes important for us to step back and take measure of how far we've come. The economy right now is doing better than any other economy in the world by a significant margin,” Obama added. “We remain the strongest nation on earth by far, and there are no existential threats facing us.”
Looking ahead to his post-presidency, Obama predicted the decisions his administration makes during the remainder of his time in office will shape the country’s future for years to come.
“Part of what I hope to talk about is that if we make some good choices now, whoever the next president is, whoever is controlling the next Congress, there's no reason why we shouldn't own the 21st century, but it will require us to move forward on some big issues,” Obama said. “We've gotta face up to the fact that the economy's changing. It's not gonna go back to where it was, and we gotta adapt institutions to make sure it works for everybody.”
Asked for his reaction to actor Sean Penn’s interview with Joaquin Guzman, Obama praised the Mexican government for capturing the Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin known as “El Chapo" though he ducked a direct response to Penn’s actions.
“In terms of how an interview like that…and journalistic ethics, I figure you're probably in a position to opine on that than I am," Obama said.