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Obama: Presidency is 'Not Reality TV'

  • Chris Hannas

President Barack Obama, left, shares a laugh with host Jimmy Fallon on the set of the "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," at NBC Studios in New York, June 8, 2016.

President Barack Obama, left, shares a laugh with host Jimmy Fallon on the set of the "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," at NBC Studios in New York, June 8, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama says his role in this year's election to pick his replacement is to remind Americans that the presidency is a serious job.

"This is not reality TV," he said during an appearance on NBC's Tonight Show to be broadcast Thursday. "I've seen the decisions that have to be made and the work that has to be done, and I have a lot of confidence that if the American people are reminded of what's at stake and all the incredibly important issues that we gotta get right, that they're going to make a good choice."

Obama has largely stayed out of the process thus far as voters chose nominees from his Democratic Party and the rival Republican Party. But now that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are set to face off in November, the president is expected to help the push to keep a Democrat in the White House for a third consecutive term.

Obama told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon that he spoke with Clinton and her main competitor for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, throughout the primary election process and offered advice. He said, unsurprisingly, that he had not had any such conversation with Trump.

During his campaign, Trump has repeatedly criticized Obama's presidency and said if Clinton is elected she will only continue those policies.

Obama joked that the Democrats are happy the Republican primaries produced Trump as their nominee, but he also expressed concern, saying the country works best when both parties are "serious and trying to solve problems."

"You want the Republican nominee to be somebody who could do the job if they win. And you want folks who understand the issues, and where you can sit across the table from them and you have a principled argument and ultimately can still move the country forward."

The president said he hoped the two parties will figure out how to work together, something he found to be more difficult than he expected when he took office in early 2009.

"When I came in, we were in the middle of crisis. And usually your hope is, is that, all right we can play political games, but when stuff is serious, when we're losing 800,000 jobs a month, when we've got 180,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, that we're going to buckle down here for a second, put the politics aside and just get stuff done. And that did not happen."

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, was on the Tonight Show several times during his presidency, but his media appearances were otherwise generally interviews on news shows.

By contrast, Obama and his wife, Michelle, have had a much more expansive media presence with segments on daytime talk shows, as well as science and comedy programs. The Obama presidency has also coincided with the vast expansion of social media, and both of the Obamas have Twitter accounts with frequent posts from them or their staff. Official White House accounts can be found on other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

The type of media profile that either Clinton or Trump will have remains to be seen, but both are already experienced in using Twitter to express their views and connect with supporters. They have also used the platform to attack each other, something that will certainly continue through election day in November.

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