President Barack Obama, speaking in private this week, extolled what he said was the drama-free nature of his White House and said it was a “low bar” now to avoid embarrassing presidential scandals.
It was a veiled but distinct jab at the current occupants of the West Wing, who have weathered a tumultuous year since Obama departed.
“We didn’t have a scandal that embarrassed us,” Obama said during closed-door remarks in Boston on Friday. Audio of the private speech – delivered to hundreds of people attending a sports policy conference – was obtained by the magazine Reason and published Monday. “I know that seems like a low bar.”
“Generally speaking, you didn’t hear about a lot of drama inside our White House,” he added.
The oblique reference to President Donald Trump was one part of a lengthy speech Obama delivered at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last week. Attendees were told the remarks were strictly off-the-record and that recording or reporting on them wasn’t allowed.
According to the audio obtained by Reason, Obama stuck largely to his post-presidential talking points, including bemoaning people who claim climate change doesn’t exist.
“I can’t have that same debate with somebody who just holds up a snowball in the middle of the Senate chamber in winter and says, ‘look there’s no climate change because it’s snowing!’ Which happened by the way. I didn’t just make that up,” he said, referring to a 2015 speech by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.
He also expanded on the role social media platforms play in spreading false or toxic information, saying the US firms had a responsibility to reckon with their own responsibilities.
“I do think the large platforms – Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem – have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise,” he said. “They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.”