Obama deplores leaders who lie with 'utter loss of shame'


A day after President Trump’s jaw-dropping joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former President Barack Obama on Tuesday, speaking in Johannesburg, South Africa, bemoaned the “utter loss of shame among political leaders who won’t quit lying.”

“Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, ’Oh, man,’” Obama said in a speech marking the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. “Now they just keep on lying.”

“Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth,” he said. “People just make stuff up.”

The former president said such true-bending behavior can be seen in the “growth of state-sponsored propaganda” and “internet-driven fabrications” — things that both Trump and Putin have been accused of propagating. Trump began his political career by pushing the so-called birther conspiracy — the false claim that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama stand with their portraits during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Amy Sherald (R) and former first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of Mrs. Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Kehinde Wiley (L) and former U.S. President Barack Obama participate in the unveiling of Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Amy Sherald (R) and former first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of Mrs. Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the unveiling of his portrait and that of former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama holds hands with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artists Amy Sherald (L) and Kehinde Wiley (R) gather with actor Tom Hanks prior to the unveiling of their painted portraits of former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama applaud during the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama react to the crowd during an unveiling ceremony for their portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama greets artist Kehinde Wiley during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, (L), greets Craig Robinson, during the official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Amy Sherald is introduced during the official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Obama prefaced his lecture by ruminating on the “strange and uncertain times,” which struck some listeners as a reference to Monday’s events at the summit in Helsinki, Finland. Putin denied involvement in the cyberattacks on the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee that American intelligence officials have with meticulous and copious evidence, attributed to Russian operatives. Trump seemed inclined to back Putin in what virtually the entire rest of the world considers a lie.

“Given the strange and uncertain times we are in — and they are strange, and they are uncertain, with each day’s news cycles bringing more head spinning and disturbing headlines — I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try and get some perspective,” Obama said.

Speaking about Mandela’s legacy of “freedom, justice and equal opportunity,” Obama said the world must also “recognize all the ways the international order has fallen short of his promise.”

“We now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business,” he said. “So we have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken during these last several decades in international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of privilege and power and injustice and exploitation never completely went away.”

Following his practice since leaving office, Obama did not mention Trump by name.

Obama said that in preparing his lecture, he “thought about the American press, and how they often got frustrated in my long-winded answers at press conferences, when my responses didn’t conform to two-minute soundbites.”

In early January 2017, shortly before Obama left office, a report concluded with “high confidence” that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” Putin’s goals, the report said, were to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

In the wake of the 2016 presidential campaign, Obama was criticized for not speaking out more forcefully about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Obama administration officials say he did not want to be seen tipping the scales in Clinton’s favor, despite the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow was attempting to sow discord and boost Trump’s chances.

In October 2016, the Obama administration did release a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence saying that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee earlier in the year — the first time the U.S. government had publicly accused a foreign superpower of intervening in an American election. The announcement, though, was overshadowed by the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape a few hours later.

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's final campaign days
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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's final campaign days
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton acknowledges the crowd at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. November 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Leesburg, Virginia, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri 
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protest signs urging more civility in American politics flank a long row of signs supporting Republican President candidate Donald Trump in Hillsborough, North Carolina, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake 
A child dressed up as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump waits at a campaign event in Hershey, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Hershey, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri 
Jay Z and Beyonce share a kiss before Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a free campaign concert in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., November 4 , 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk 
Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway speaks before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Hershey, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A cardboard cutout of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is pictured on a the media charter plane with a countdown clock to the election while sitting on the tarmac at the airport in Tampa, Florida, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. President Barack Obama takes the stage to deliver remarks at a Hillary for America campaign event in support of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 
U.S. President Barack Obama puffs out his cheeks at a baby as he greets people in the crowd after his remarks at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and businessman/NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talk on her campaign plane in Moon, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
People listen as U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Atkinson, New Hampshire, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Ground crew wait with a set of bunting wrapped stairs for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to attend a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. President Barack Obama greets people before delivering remarks at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters pose with a large effigy of U.S. Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, while waiting to attend a campaign event with U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A Donald Trump supporter disrupts remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets audience members at a campaign rally at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
U.S. President Barack Obama takes the stage to deliver remarks at a Hillary for America campaign event at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks through Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, after a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
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