Former president Barack Obama made a few pointed jibes — without actually naming President Trump — in remarks in New Delhi on Friday, taking on social media, climate-change deniers and religious intolerance.
In a discussion period at a leadership forum, the former president was asked about his wife Michelle’s comments this week during a speech in Toronto, when she said it was not a good idea to “tweet from bed,” an obvious commentary on Trump’s early morning Twitter habit.
“Michelle was giving the general idea . . . don’t say the first thing that pops in your head. Have a little bit of an edit function,” he said. “Think before you speak, think before you tweet.”
The former president got a laugh when he pointed out that he has 100 million followers — “more than other people who use it more often.”
Actually, Trump has 44 million followers, Obama 97 million.
On the subject of climate change, Obama described the Paris agreement to limit carbon emissions as giving children a “fighting chance,” although “we have a little bit of a pause in American leadership.” Trump announced earlier this year that the United States would be withdrawing from the agreement, in which countries gave voluntary pledges to limit their greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades.
Obama praised India for its role in the Paris accords and said he couldn’t have a debate with people who claimed climate change was not real. Trump has said that climate change is a hoax caused by China.
“I can have a debate with someone about climate change and about what we need to do, but if you call climate change a hoax, I don't know what to do with that,” Obama said.
Obama also said that he had “privately” raised the issue of religious intolerance with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Modi is a Hindu nationalist whose more radical supporters have been accused of inflaming tensions with Muslims and other minority communities in Hindu-majority India.
“A country shouldn't be divided on sectarian lines and that is something I have told Prime Minister Modi in person . . . People see the differences between each other much too vividly and miss the commonalities,” Obama said.
Tension between minority groups and religious communities in India, one of the world’s most diverse countries, have long existed, but some critics in India think that intolerance has increased during Modi’s administration.
“For a country like India where there is a Muslim population that is successful, integrated and considers itself as Indian, which is not the case in some other countries, this should be nourished and cultivated,” Obama said.
Modi did not address the subject of the meeting with Obama, simply tweeting that “it was a pleasure to meet, once again, former President Barack Obama.”