From taking selfies in BuzzFeed's Obamacare video to occupying Stephen Colbert's seat in The Colbert Report, President Obama has always gone the unconventional route on his press tours. Turns out, two days before he read mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Obama sat down with Vice on March 10 and fielded online readers' most popular questions. There were no holds barred for Obama, who talked climate change, foreign policy, marijuana legalization, and more with Vice founder Shane Smith.
Much of POTUS' answers in the interview, which was made available in full this week, were directly aimed at the Republican party. He blamed Republicans for political gridlock on Capitol Hill and spoke out against GOP members of Congress' who sent an open letter (written on March 9, the day before the Vice interview) to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning the Iranian leader that any of Obama's nuclear arms deals would not last past his presidency.
Some of Obama's answers were typically presidential, with only abstract ideology presented and no clear-cut solutions offered. But a few soundbite gems definitely emerged, particularly when it came his views on how the Republican party could improve. Oh, and his thoughts on young people's obsession with marijuana legalization? Priceless.
On how his two daughters give him hope for climate change policy
The hardest thing to do in politics and in government is to make sacrifices now for a long-term payoff. But here's what keeps me optimistic. You talk to Malia and Sasha, 16 and 13, and the sophistication and awareness they have about environmental issues compared to my generation or yours, they're way ahead of the game. There's always going to be resistance to change, and some of that is going to be generational. I guarantee you that the Republican party will have to change its approach to climate change because voters will insist upon it.
On political gridlock in the federal government
There have been times in history where Democrats have been unreasonable, and there have been times where Republicans have led the way. But right now, on a lot of the issues that young people care about, it's not both sides arguing and creating gridlock. You've got one side that is denying the facts, who are often motivated principally by opposing whatever it is I propose. That's not inevitable to our democracy. That's a phase the Republican party is going through right now.
On the Republicans' letter to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
I'm embarrassed for them. Because it's not how America does business. ... For them to address a letter to the Ayatollah, the supreme leader of Iran, who they claim is our mortal enemy, and their basic argument to them is don't deal with our president because you can't trust him to follow through on an agreement, that's close to unprecedented.
On U.S. foreign policy and the ISIS threat
ISIL is a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq, that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences, which is why we should generally aim before we shoot. ... We can't keep on thinking about counterterrorism and security as entirely separate from diplomacy, development, education — all these things that are considered "soft" but are in fact vital to our national security.
On the federal government legalizing marijuana
Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war, and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana. ... At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, Congress may then reschedule marijuana.
Watch the full interview as Vice sits down with Obama and asks the questions we're all wondering.
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