Barack Obama has likened Donald Trump to Richie Rich, saying that even though he was not surprised to see a right-wing populist gain power, he did not expect "the complaining, lying, doesn’t-take-responsibility-for-anything type of figure."
In an interview with The Atlantic to promote his new book, Mr Obama spoke at great length about the rise of Trumpism, his disappointment with the Republican party for their spineless acquiescence, and his own attempts to make the United States a better country for all.
The 59-year-old said that Mr Trump was "a symptom as much as an accelerant" of America’s long-standing problems.
He said the US should have paid more attention to the forces behind Sarah Palin, and to Joe Wilson, the South Carolina congressman who interrupted Mr Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in 2009 to yell: "You lie!"
"But if we were going to have a right-wing populist in this country, I would have expected somebody a little more appealing," he said.
"I guess I would not have expected someone who has complete disdain for ordinary people to be able to get attention and then the following from those very same people."
Mr Obama said that the "classic male hero in American culture" was someone like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, or Clint Eastwood.
"There’s a notion that a man is true to his word, that he takes responsibility, that he doesn’t complain, that he isn’t a bully; in fact he defends the vulnerable against bullies," he said.
"And so even if you are someone who is annoyed by wokeness and political correctness and wants men to be men again and is tired about everyone complaining about the patriarchy, I thought that the model wouldn’t be Richie Rich - the complaining, lying, doesn’t-take-responsibility-for-anything type of figure."
Mr Obama's book is a presidential memoir in two volumes, the first of which, A Promised Land, is out on Tuesday.
His publisher, Crown, is printing 3.4 million copies for the United States and Canadian market, and another 2.5 million for international readers.
The 768 page book is being released simultaneously around the world, and will be available in 19 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Romanian and Chinese, with translations into six other languages still underway.
Demand among American customers is so high that Penguin Random House, Crown’s parent company, has printed 1.5 million copies in Germany to bring over on cargo ships.
"I have to say that when I came to the end of the book and I looked back, my views on my presidency were surprisingly consistent," he said.
"When I started, I had a basic sense of trajectory of the presidency and the narrative I wanted to write, and during the course of it I didn’t find myself thinking, Huh, I didn’t think of that, or Gosh, upon reflection I feel this.
"The thing that did surprise me was the degree to which the undertow of resistance to the idea of my presidency dates back to Sarah Palin during the campaign, and emerges through the Tea Party all the way until the end of the book, which ends with the bin Laden raid."
Mr Obama said that, over the three years it took to write the book, he had to stop himself from agonizing over every paragraph, which would sometimes take all day. He spent time contextualising people and policies, trying to give a sense of both history and personal feelings. He writes of his time in Egypt, gazing at an ancient figure etched onto a wall and having a sense of the transience of life.
“All of it was forgotten now, none of it mattered, the pharaoh, the slave, and the vandal all long turned to dust," he writes. "Just as every speech I’d delivered, every law I passed and decision I made, would be forgotten. Just as I and all those I loved would someday turn to dust."
Other chapters, such as the one about retail politics in Iowa, flowed from his pen, he said. Reviewing some of the key moments brought clarity and perspective, which in the heat of the moment was missing.
"There is no doubt that one of the themes of the book is me just wanting to hang on to who I am - my soul, my sense of right and wrong, my character - while operating at the highest level of politics," he said.