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.