Without mentioning you-know-who, Michelle Obama talks to Stephen Colbert about ‘moral leadership’ in the White House

Michelle Obama has a book out. Perhaps you’ve heard?

Less than two weeks after it hit shelves, her memoir, “Becoming,” has already become the bestselling hardcover book of the year, beating tell-all tomes about the Trump White House by Bob Woodward and Michael Wolff. If Americans have a vast appetite for discussion of the current president and his shortcomings, they’re also very fond of their former first lady.

When Obama visited “The Late Show” on Friday, they got a taste of both. Without mentioning Trump’s name, Stephen Colbert asked his guest about the “public morality” of being in the White House.

“When you’re the first of anything the bar feels higher. You feel like you don’t have room to make mistakes,” said Obama, sharing a story about how, as she flew away from Washington aboard Air Force One for the last time, she cried for 30 minutes. “It was just the release of eight years of feeling like we had to do everything perfectly.”


As the first black family to live in the White House, “We couldn’t afford to make a mistake, we couldn’t afford to look cavalier, we had to watch our language,” she said. “We had to speak carefully and intelligently and clearly and we couldn’t just say thing off the cuff.”

That’s where Colbert jumped in: “You know my next question .… How does it feel to see the next occupant of the Oval Office who seems indifferent to that responsibility?”

Without mentioning Trump by name — a tactic she often employs — Obama noted that she’d made her feelings “very clear” in her now famous “when they go low, we go high” speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

But she also downplayed the importance of her opinion on the subject, urging the public to make their feelings known at the ballot box instead.

“It doesn’t matter what you or I think at this point,” she told Colbert. “It’s up to the voters now to figure out what kind of moral leadership do we demand in the White House. Regardless of party, regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of where you are, what do we want our president to look like? … How do we want them to act? If we vote for one set of behavior, then that’s obviously what we want until we vote differently.”

Elsewhere in their conversation, Obama shared stories about how her husband proposed, how she communicated professional disagreements with him when he was president, the time she and Malia tried to sneak out of the White House, and why she believes that, despite the bitter political divisions in the country, “It’s hard to hate up close.”

You can watch the full interview here.

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