Barack Obama is fighting for his legacy
The Times reports that “in one possible show idea, Mr. Obama could moderate conversations on topics that dominated his presidency — health care, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy, climate change — and that have continued to divide a polarized American electorate during President Trump's time in office.”
Trump has staked much of his presidency on undoing Obama's work — withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and attempting to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, for example. An Obama-led show that focuses on such issues could be a way of trying to build public support for his endangered policies.
Beyond fighting to preserve what he did in office, Obama could be making an effort to shape perceptions of his presidency. The daily message from the Trump White House and Fox News commentators is that Obama's eight years were a disaster.
The Times reports that “Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming.” Still, it is hard to imagine a public affairs program hosted by Obama that does not present his two terms as a period of progress, at least indirectly.
Obama just wants to get into the media business
The 44th president has a long-standing fascination with the press. One of his speechwriters, Jon Favreau, told the New Yorker in 2010 that Obama is on a mission “to change the culture of Washington, and the media is part of it.”
Favreau went on to become a co-founder of his own media company, and a similar — but bigger — project by Obama would be natural, in many ways. Obama, especially near the end of his time in office, volunteered his thoughts on the media landscape.
“Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces; I'm aware of that,” he said at a journalism awards ceremony in 2016. “You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate. You’ve staked your careers on it. Our democracy needs you more than ever. You're under significant financial pressures, as well.
“So I believe the electorate would be better served if your networks and your producers would give you the room, the capacity to follow your best instincts and dig deeper into the things that might not always be flashy but need attention.”
It is possible that Obama's chief goal is to practice what he preaches in an industry that has always interested him.
The possible streaming TV project is really more about Michelle than Barack
A Michelle Obama character on “Saturday Night Live,” played by Leslie Jones, quipped in a sketch last month that “I can be president whenever I want.”
The real Michelle Obama insists that “whenever” will never come. “I'm not coy,” she said in a December 2016 interview with Oprah Winfrey (oh, the irony). “I'm pretty direct. If I was interested in it, I would say. I don't believe in playing games.”
Fair enough, but Michelle Obama has plenty of time to change her mind. She's just 54.
According to the Times, “another program could feature Mrs. Obama on topics, like nutrition, that she championed in the White House.”
A Netflix show featuring Michelle Obama would help keep her in the public eye and perhaps help keep the door open to future political ambitions, should she have any.