Obama will give Trump space, but will speak up if need be, giving the Democrats a leading voice they need.
President Barack Obama has said that he will not constantly criticize President-elect Donald Trump once they transition, but he will speak up if a certain situation arises:
“As an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle or go to core questions about our values and ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, I’ll examine it when it comes,” Obama told reporters.
Presidents have a tradition of providing “their successors space to govern.” Obama insists he will do that, making a very smooth transition for Trump the same way President George W. Bush did for him eight years ago.
Obama has also “praised Bush for the way he’s handled his ex-presidency.” Bush quietly went back to civilian life, concentrating on his family and helping veterans whenever he can. I can’t remember ever hearing a peep out of him against Obama. He has stayed out of the public and political eye, even as his brother ran for president this year.
Obama did not tell the reporters exactly what Trump could do that would cause him to speak out:
The president spoke out vigorously throughout the campaign against Trump’s calls for banning Muslim immigrants, deporting millions of people living in the U.S. illegally, repealing “Obamacare,” and canceling the Paris climate deal, to name a few. Those policy proposals and others like them have stoked fear for many Americans who oppose Trump and are hoping vehement opposition from Obama and other Democrats might prevent Trump from implementing them.
Though Obama didn’t specify what might trigger him to break silence, he left himself a broad window of possibilities. His comments suggested he’d be most inclined to weigh in if Trump violated basic principles Obama has tried to uphold, such as minority rights, equal protection and respect for civilian life. Obama has long warned that Trump might impulsively use nuclear weapons, and has cast a dim view on ideas like a Muslim registry, which Trump’s incoming chief of staff declined on Sunday to rule out.
As Politico points out, Democrats will probably welcome this news as they continue to search “for party leadership and who are still largely in love with him.” 2016 started off strong for the party, but one night in November completely deflated it. Trump soundly defeated Hillary Clinton, the Democrats did not pick up as many seats in the House as they hoped, and the GOP held the majority in the Senate. Not only that, though, because the GOP made strong gains in individual state governments.
The Democrats may need Obama around since the party keeps looking on the outside for blame instead of the inside. Obama has so far attempted to make the Democrats accept blame while encouraging them to step in the right direction:
Obama said of the new administration and Congress, “give them a hearing.” Earlier in the press conference, Obama said “people should take a wait-and-see approach” on Trump.
Many Democrats feel like they’ve heard and seen enough already. But Obama, as he often does, urged a long view over immediate political satisfaction.
“My advice to Democrats is, know what you care about and what you stand for and fight for your principles, even if it’s a hard fight. If there are areas where the new administration is doing something that’s good for the American people, find a way to work with them,” he said.
“I believe that we have better ideas. But I also believe that good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them,” Obama said, reflecting on Hillary Clinton’s shocking Election Day loss.
In 2008, no one thought Obama would win Iowa. He took that doubt, put it to work, and won. He said he won “in Iowa mostly white state, ‘not because of the demographics’, but because he spent 87 days going to ‘every small town’, fair, fish fry and VFW.”
Obama also said he probably saved a few votes because he took that extra effort to visit the voters:
‘And the challenge for a national party is how do you dig in there and create those kinds of structures,’ he said.
However, like Bush, Obama wants to concentrate on his family before spilling back into politics:
“My intention is to, certainly for the next 2 months, just finish my job,” Obama said. “And then after that, to take Michelle on vacation, get some rest, spend time with my girls, and do some writing, do some thinking.”
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