Obama made a joke about 'the modern presidency' and people 'going to jail'

  • President Barack Obama had a rule in his White House that no one would get in trouble for making a mistake as long as there wasn’t “malicious intent” behind it, he said at a tech conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
  • Obama said this rule worked great, which is why his administration “didn’t have scandals.”
  • He then drove home the point by making a joke about the “modern” president and people “going to jail.”

When President Barack Obama was in office, he tried to be a good boss to the people working for him at the White House, he said onstage Wednesday at a tech conference in Las Vegas hosted by identity security company Okta.

Doing so was very important to him and first lady Michelle Obama, he said, giving as examples, “how we treated people, how we ran our household and staffs.”

“That we had an expectation of kindness and honesty and being useful and working hard,” he said.

One of the cornerstones of being a good boss was how he treated people who made mistakes.

His rule was that he insisted that people deliver bad news quickly.

“We are then able to solve it together,” he said. “Over time, we were able to drill that into even the most junior person on staff. It might even be the junior person first to identify it was screwed up,” he said.

But that rule also meant he couldn’t punish the messenger, because you can’t convince people to fess up to mistakes if they know they will get themselves into hot water over it.

“No one in my White House ever got in trouble for screwing up as long there wasn’t malicious intent behind it,” he said.

And then he couldn’t help throwing some very subtle shade at the Trump administration when he added (emphasis ours), “And there wasn’t any malicious intent, which is why I didn’t have scandals. Which seems like it shouldn’t be something you brag about,” he joked.

“But actually, if you look at the history of the modern presidency, coming out of the modern presidency without anybody going to jail, is really good. It’s a big deal,” he said to a crowd (emphasis ours) who laughed, appreciating the context of its subtle reference to the work of the current investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, with shades of a shout-out to the end of the Nixon administration, too.

While no one in Trump’s current administration has gone to jail, Mueller is currently investigating the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia.

More from President Obama’s on Wednesday.

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