The Slatest

Obama Shoots Down Biden Cabinet Speculation: “Michelle Would Leave Me”

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in campaign rally with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belle Isle on October 31, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in campaign rally with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belle Isle on Oct. 31 in Detroit. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In his first sit-down interview since the election, former President Barack Obama made clear he would not take a position in Joe Biden’s Cabinet because doing so could lead his wife to leave him. “He doesn’t need my advice, and I will help him in any ways that I can. Now, I’m not planning to suddenly work on the White House staff or something,” Obama said on CBS. When a CBS This Morning co-host asked whether that meant “no Cabinet position for you,” Obama didn’t hesitate. “There are probably some things I would not be doing, ’cause Michelle would leave me,” Obama said with a laugh. “She’d be like, ‘What? You’re doin’ what?’ ”

Obama, whose memoir will be published Tuesday, said he often doesn’t take Donald Trump very seriously. Specifically, Obama was asked about Trump’s claim that he’s done more for the Black community than any president since Abraham Lincoln and whether he takes that as an insult. “I think it’s fair to say that there are many things he says that I do not take personally or seriously, although I think they can often be destructive and harmful,” Obama replied.

Obama was asked about his direct attacks against Trump before the election, and the former president said that while he doesn’t like to be out on the campaign trail so much, he felt he had no choice. “It is not my preference to be out there,” he said. “I think we were in a circumstance in this election in which certain norms, certain institutional values that are so extraordinarily important, had been breached—that it was important for me, as somebody who had served in that office, to simply let people know, ‘This is not normal.’ ”

The former president went on to say it “has been disappointing” but not surprising to see how few Republicans have stood up to Trump or challenged him on his baseless claims that the election was mired by fraud. “It’s been sort of par for the course during these four years. They obviously didn’t think there was any fraud going on, ’cause they didn’t say anything for the first two days. But there’s damage to this, because what happens is that the peaceful transfer of power, the notion that any of us who attain an elected office—whether it’s dogcatcher or president—are servants of the people,” he said. “It’s a temporary job.”

Obama’s A Promised Land is likely to be one of the bestselling political memoirs in history. The publisher is printing 3.4 million copies for the U.S. and Canadian market and an additional 2.5 million for the rest of the world. Booksellers are optimistic that the memoir will be a rare lifeline in a year when sales have plunged during the pandemic.