U.S.

What President Obama Said During His Garage Podcast

Obama in garage
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he speaks to reporters in the Oval Office on March 9. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Barack Obama recently sat down in a Los Angeles garage to speak candidly with comedian Marc Maron for a "WTF" podcast.

"I love conversations like this because if I thought to myself when I was in college that I'd be in a garage a couple of miles away from where I was living, doing an interview, as president, with a comedian...it's not possible to imagine," Obama said during the hour-long interview, taped last Friday and released Monday.

Here's what else the 44th president said:

"I've done this way too often." — Obama last week addressed the country in the wake of the deadly shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a gunman killed nine people attending a Bible study group at church. Obama reiterated to Maron that he has had to speak to the country and particular community about a devastating loss from gun violence at least twice each year.

"It's not enough just to feel bad. There are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely." — He again touched upon his remarks from last week, saying that lawmakers could enhance basic commonsense basic gun laws, which the majority of gun owners support. There is no other advanced nation, he told Maron, that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal, than the United States.

"Unfortunately the grip of the NRA [National Rifle Association] on Congress is extremely strong. I don't foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress, and I don't foresee any real action until the American public feel as sufficient sense of urgency." — Laws won't change unless legislators have pressure from voters.

"The American people are overwhelming good, decent, generous people...Everybody that I meet believes in a lot of the same things." — Obama said this is one of the most important lessons he has learned in the past six years from meeting people of "all walks of life."

"Progress in a democracy is never instantaneous, and it's always partial, and you can't get cynical or frustrated because you didn't get all the way there immediately." — Sometimes the task of government, he said, is to make incremental improvements, or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south instead of making sudden changes.

"I can answer Ronald Regan's question unequivocally: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? The answer is: On every economic measure, just about, you are." — There have been "more hits than misses," he said in not just managing the government, but by moving the country forward. He cited his efforts to restore workers' 401(k)s, doubling clean energy, reducing the county's carbon footprint, increasing college attendance and recognizing and solidifying LGBT rights.

"Do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s or 60s or 70s." — It is incontrovertible, he said, that race relations have improved significantly during his lifetime, opportunities have opened up and attitudes have changed.

"Racism, we are not cured of. It's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n****r in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened two to 300 years prior." — Obama explained his notion that progress is real. Americans must take hope from that progress. But the march, he added, isn't over and the work is not yet complete. The job is to try to figure out what more can be done in concrete ways. He said one way to break the legacy of racism and poverty is early childhood education.

Obama also discussed growing up in Hawaii, college, his two daughters, playing basketball and his decades-old journal.

The conversation was similar to some of Obama's past interviews with other comedians, including with Jimmy Fallon on his late-night shows and with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns.

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