He’s been the biggest celebrity in the world since spring 2008. Was there really any doubt which field he’d choose after public office?
A month ago it looked like we’d be getting a third Obama term as president along with Trump TV. A month later it turns out we’re getting a first Trump term along with … Obama TV?
President Barack Obama has been discussing a post-presidential career in digital media and is considering launching his own media company, according to multiple sources who spoke on background because they were not authorized to speak for the president.
Obama considers media to be a central focus of his next chapter, these sources say, though exactly what form that will take — a show streaming on Netflix, a web series on a comedy site or something else — remains unclear. Obama has gone so far as to discuss launching his own media company, according to one source with knowledge of the matter, although he has reportedly cooled on the idea of late…
Depending on what form it takes, a hard dive into media could also put Obama at odds with presidential precedent. For decades, former presidents have followed a tradition of remaining quiet about their successors in public. During his recent visit to Peru, Obama said he would uphold that convention after leaving office, but also hinted he might speak out when he feels necessary. “If there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle or go to core questions about our values and ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, I’ll examine it when it comes,” Obama told reporters.
“A web series on a comedy site.” Imagine this guy replacing Zach Galifianakis on “Between Two Ferns.” We’re approaching a media singularity in which the only faces we ever see on a screen are Obama’s and Trump’s, with O destined to interview President Trump for his new platform circa 2018. And afterward that’s the only thing that American television will show. Forever.
His “media company” will be based online, I’m sure. Cable TV is far too stodgy and passe for a guy whose brand is being “next stage,” especially after Al Gore tried and failed miserably to turn Current TV (remember that?) into a leading voice of the left. There’s also a question of whether O would want a leading role or if he’d prefer to operate behind the scenes, as figurehead. If his face is the face of the platform and it fails, that opens him up to “America’s tired of Obama” storylines. And at the moment, his personal invincibility is really all that’s left to his legacy. His party lies in ruins at the federal and state level and his signature domestic achievement is on the chopping block, but he’ll always have those two landslides in 2008 and 2012. America loves Obama, even if it hates pretty much everything he touches. If he’s going to start handling media properties, maybe he’ll want to leave as few fingerprints as possible.
I can imagine him latching on with Fusion or joining a new project along those lines — multi-platform, liberal in orientation, not exclusively political. Obama has always understood that non-political entertainment is, by definition, a necessary pipeline to people who don’t follow politics closely. He could be “editor-at-large” or whatever, swooping in for an hour as needed to push whatever cause has caught his interest at the moment or giving exclusive interviews periodically. The company gets his star power, he gets a platform that’ll let him do whatever he feels like doing. The alternative is to launch something more overtly political and activist, like the Center for American Progress or Vox but with more videos, which sounds dreary to the point of unwatchability. Does the mainstream left need another woke advocacy site pitching itself, kinda sorta, as news?
Maybe ESPN will hire him to bring back Roy Firestone’s interview show “Up Close.” That’s Obama’s favorite channel; he could get any guest in the world to come on and talk sports and politics. Probably wouldn’t work, though. He’s too right-wing for that network.
Update: And here’s the obligatory denial by the White House.