Jonathan Chait - Reflecting on Obama's Presidency in "Audacity"

January 11, 2017 - Jonathan Chait 01/11/2017 Views: 2,123

New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait reflects on President Obama's legacy in his book "Audacity" and weighs in on how Donald Trump could infringe on press freedoms. (6:08)

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Please welcome Jonathan Chait.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

-Thank you so much.-Yeah.

Thank you very much.

-Welcome to the show.-Thank you very much.

-I'm a huge fan of your writing.-That's very kind.

And the book is no different.

What a time for the bookto come out.

Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics

-and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail. -Yeah.

-What I love about this titleis that you changed it. -Yeah.

-I did.-Because you wrote the book

before Trump won.

Right. Most of it...

I actually wrote a decent chunkafter Trump won.

Yes. I think I have it there.

The original title was, uh...

It was How Obama Defied His Critics

and Transformed America. -Mm-hmm. Yup.

And then, Trump,and then you're like,

"No, it didn't transform."

No, that's not the point.

So, as soonas the election happens...

-Yes. -As soonas the election happens,

basically, everyone jumpsto the conclusion

-that it's all gone...-Yes.

...Trump is going to erase itwithin the first week.

And that waswhat everyone thought,

and I want to make the casein this book, and I do,

that that's not really true.

And I think we're already seeingthat that's not really true.

-But-but I mean, Trump sayshe's going to come in... -Yeah.

-and reverse all of theexecutive... -Right. Right. know, orders that Obamahas put into place.

-Mm-hmm.-He's going to erase Obama.

-Right. -He's goingto replace Obamacare

-with something much better.-Right.

So, essentially,is that not the legacy

that people are worried,

you know,Donald Trump can erase?

So, the ideathat Obama only did things

with executive actions isa myth that Republicans used,

I think, to attack his programs,and it's...

And if you read the book,it's not really true.

He passed a lot of laws

that peoplewere not paying attention to

in his first two years, andhe did use executive actions.

But he-he putthese things together

in a way that's goingto be very durable,

even the executive actions.

-Like on the...on the environment... -Yeah.

they did a lot of regulations,and he made a deal with China

on climate change,and then they got

the world's firstclimate change agreement.

And that's moving forward, andthe United States may pull out,

but the world is not gonna stopcaring about climate change.

So these agreementsthey put into place,

no matter what Trump does,

I think that'sstill going to be there.

And on Obamacare,another great example,

-Yeah. -everyone said,"After the election, gone."

They're farther awayfrom replacing that thing now

than they wereafter the election.

They're moving backwards.They're bleeding votes.

Every... Right?They said, "We know what to do,"

and then it's like, "Well...I think we know what to do,"

and then it's like, "Does anyonehave an idea what we should do?"

-Right? I mean,they're-they're... -Yeah.

-they're in chaos now...-Well, you got to replace it

with something much better.That's all you got to do.

Right, something better but...and cheaper.

-Yes, better and cheaper.-Everyone's gonna have

-great care and it's gonna costless. -Yeah, better and cheaper.

-That's all you need.Better and cheaper. -Yeah.

I'm glad we agree on this.

Do you agree or disagreewith people who say

the election of Donald Trump,

or Trump being electedinto office,

is a response to eight yearsof Obama?

-Or do you say...-Yeah.

You know, do you have a responsethat maybe, you know...

an opinion that differsfrom that?

No, I think in some ways it is.And I think the election

of Donald was a big part of my book,

and it was a big... and Trump'srise was a big part of my book

-before I thoughthe was going to win. -Yeah.

Because if you trace the shapeof the Republican response

to Obama, it was movingin a Trumpist direction

from the very beginning.It was...

There was an argumentbetween right and left about

what is this Tea Partyrebellion about,

-what is this response about.-Yes.

And-and conservatives said,"It's-it's about

"a principled response,about the...

"restoring the Constitution

and limited governmentand the deficit."

And-and liberals said,"No, we think

"this is a sort of racializedresponse to social change,

and it's not really aboutthose ideas."

And I thinkthat argument is over.

Trump has won the argumentfor the liberal side

about what this responseto Obama was.

-Wow, you think so?-I-I do.

I think if it was anyof the things that conservatives

said the Tea Party was about,they would have nominated

anybody except Donald Trump.

He would... literallywould have finished 17th

out of 17 candidates, if it wasabout limited government

-and democracyand the Constitution. -Yes.

That was the one thinghe offered that nobody else did

on the... on the surface.

Right. He understoodthat their stated concerns

were a pile of crap.He understood that the things

that they said that they wereupset about with Obama weren't

-the things they were reallyupset about with Obama. -Yes.

You-you work in, uh, the press.

Now, we know that 75%of the press is scum.

-Uh, very dishonest.-Yeah.

-You guys lie. Failing.-Failing. Sad.


Is this the time for the pressto come together, almost,

and say, "Hey, you realizewe are stronger together

than we are apart"?Or is everyone just going,

"Hey, we're in it for ourselves.Let's see what happens"?

Is-is there any sortof game plan in your world?

With a man who specificallysaid, "I think we need to..."

'Cause, don't forget,there's the libel laws

that he talked about thathe seems very serious about.

-Yeah. -And today, as we sawin the press conference,

he's not afraid to say, "No,you don't exist in my world.

-You are fake news." -Right.Complete delegitimization

-of the media. Um,and legitimizing sources -Yes.

of media that even previousconservative Republicans

did not want to legitimize,right, like, um, Alex Jones.

-Yes. -Alex Jones was a lunaticwho would...

who couldn't be touchedby normal Republican politicians

until Donald Trump came along.Um, Breitbart was sort of

on the fringes, like someRepublicans would deal with it,

but it was kind of icky andgross. And now they're, like,

Trump news. Um, and, obviously,Fox News was already sort of

-the official Republican...-Are you... are you even

a little bit afraidfor yourself?

No, I don't thinkhe's gonna bother with me. He...

First of all, he's not a reader.

-(laughter)-He's not. He's not a reader.

-(cheering and applause)-Um...

I mean, um...

He would...He watches television.

Maybe you've got somethingto worry about.

But, like, if he's clickingthrough the tube

and he comes to your show,he might be upset.

But, really, like, he-hedoesn't read something longer

-than 140 characters,so I'm not concerned. -Well,

I'm-I'm also not worried.Remotes have big buttons.

We'll be good. Thank you so muchfor joining us.

You can read an excerptfrom Audacity

in this week's New York magazine,

and the book will be availableon January 17.

-Jonathan Chait, everybody.-(cheering and applause)

Thank you so much.