Obama holds first press conference following election, affirms US commitment to NATO
“In my conversations with the president-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships,” Obama said, adding that he had a message from Trump to pass on to world leaders he will meet this week: “One of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance.”
The president said that there were many diplomatic, military and humanitarian levers of U.S. power that made America the indispensable nation in the world and that status would continue.
“There is no weakening of resolve when it comes to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship,” Obama said.
Obama appeared before reporters before leaving the United States on the last scheduled foreign trip of his presidency, to Greece, Germany and Peru, and encouraged Americans Monday to give Trump a chance to get adjusted to the responsibilities of being president.
Obama is preparing the way for Trump, a man for whom he has harbored personal and political animosity, and who has pledged to tear up his legacy as quickly as possible.
Obama said he was certain after meeting Trump last week that his successor and longtime political foe was “sincere” about being president for all Americans but also called on the President-elect to reach out to people who felt anxious after the explosive rhetoric of the campaign, including women and minorities.
“I don’t think he is ideological, I think ultimately he is pragmatic in that way and that can serve him well as long as he has got good people around him and he has a good sense of direction,” Obama said.
Obama said he told Trump that his election achievement in tapping into the enthusiasm of his voters was impressive.
“I think he is coming to this office with fewer set hard and fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents might be arriving with. Do I have concerns? Absolutely, of course I’ve got concerns. He and I differ on a whole bunch of issues,” Obama added.
Obama, who met Trump in the White House for 90 minutes Thursday, stressed to reporters the importance of a smooth transition process, similar to the one he was offered by former President George W. Bush.
He said the most important point he made to Trump was the importance of setting up a proficient staffing structure, including the chief of staff, national security adviser and White House counsel.
“I hope it was useful,” Obama said. “I hope that he appreciated that advice.”
The president also reflected on his own arrival in the White House during the midst of the economic crisis. He says Trump will have more “time and space” to make “judicious decisions.”
During the presser, Obama dodged an opportunity to comment on the appointment of firebrand polemicist Stephen Bannon as Trump’s senior White House policy adviser, who has been vigorously criticized as a leading member of the alt-right nationalist movement. Obama said it would not be appropriate for him to weigh in on all of Trump’s appointments because it would be incompatible to his desire to provide a smooth transition of power to his successor.
“I think it is important for us to let him make his decisions. The American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see,” Obama said.
He added: “This office has a way of waking you up. Those aspects of his positions or his predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick because reality has a way of asserting itself.”
He said he also told Trump that “gestures matter” and how he reaches out to groups that did not support him were important.
“I think it is important to give him the room and the space to do that, it takes time,” Obama said.
Obama was repeatedly pressed about Trump’s temperament, which he had criticized extensively during the campaign.
“There are going to be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well unless he recognizes them and corrects them,” Obama said, pointing out the impact that a comment from a US president that is not accurate can have around the world.
“I think he recognizes that this is different,” he said.
The president also spoke about the future of campaigning for Democrats, and reflected on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.