Obama hints that he prefers Hillary to Sanders

Obama didn’t utter an unkind word about Sanders, who has been respectfully critical of his administration’s reluctance to prosecute Wall Street executives and his decision to abandon a single-payer health care system as politically impractical. But he was kinder to Clinton. When I asked Obama if he thought Sanders needed to expand his horizons, if he was too much a one-issue candidate too narrowly focused on income inequality, he didn’t dispute the assertion.

Gesturing to the Resolute Desk, with its spread-winged eagle seal, first brought into the Oval Office by John F. Kennedy, Obama said of Sanders: “Well, I don’t want to play political consultant, because obviously what he’s doing is working. I will say that the longer you go in the process, the more you’re going to have to pass a series of hurdles that the voters are going to put in front of you.”

Then he added: “As you’ll recall, I was sitting at my desk there just a little over a week ago… writing my State of the Union speech, and somebody walks in and says, ‘A couple of our sailors wandered into Iranian waters’” – and here he stopped to chuckle in disbelief – “that’s maybe a dramatic example, but not an unusual example of the job.”

And he gently suggested that his own ’08 message might be a pretty good mantle for his would-be successors to don. “My bet is that the candidate who can project hope still is the candidate who the American people, over the long term, will gravitate towards,” he said.