- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2016

In rare comments about being the country’s first black president, President Obama said some opponents have used “dog whistles” of racism against him, but his race has helped him in other ways.

“There’s no doubt there are pockets of the country where some dog whistles blow and there’s underlying racial fears that may be exploited,” said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Thursday. “I have no doubt there are people who voted against me because of race … or didn’t approve of my agenda because of race.”

But Mr. Obama said being black also has benefited him politically.

“I also suspect there are a bunch of people who are excited or voted for me because of the notion of the first African-American president … Those things cut both ways,” he said.

The president visited Springfield, Illinois, on Wednesday to issue a call for bipartisanship and to reminisce with former colleagues in the state General Assembly, where he served as a state senator. He held the interview with three former state senators — Republican Kirk Dillard and Democrats Larry Walsh and Denny Jacobs.

Mr. Jacobs, who is white, said in the Times article that many Americans feared Mr. Obama because of his race.

“They were afraid of you for a couple of reasons,” he told the president. “Number one, you were black.”

The president he hopes his status as the first black in the White House will set an example for the next generation.

“You’ve got a whole generation of kids growing up where the first president they’ve known is an African-American,” Mr. Obama said. “Even if they’re hearing their parents say he’s terrible, it kind of seeps in that it’s not a crazy thing. So that sometime later, if there’s a Hispanic, or a woman or another African-American, that won’t seem as exceptional. These things change over time.”

He also suggested that history will be kinder to him after he leaves office.

“Some of our most revered presidents were hugely polarizing,” Mr. Obama said. “People cussed em, called them everything but a child of God. I suspect that when I’m done being president, suddenly people will start saying, ‘Oh, you know that guy, he wasn’t a bad guy.’”

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