President Barack Obama recommended to President-elect Donald Trump, when they met for the first time last week, that he extend an olive branch to minorities and women after the blisteringly divisive election.
Holding his first news conference since last week’s shocking election results, Obama this afternoon pointedly started his remarks talking about how his White House is rooted in a respect for diversity and tolerance, and also in facts and reason and sober analysis, saying, pointedly, that so long as he’s in the office of president, “we are going to uphold those norms and cherish those ideals.”
“It is important to send signals of unity and reach out to minorities and women and others who are concerned” about a Trump administration, Obama told reporters in the White House’s Brady Press Briefing Room.
At their meeting, Obama said he congratulated Trump on his ability “to tap into, yes, the anxieties, but also the enthusiasm of his voters in a way that is impressive.”
Obama went to pains to demonstrate respect for the office of President, and the democratic election results, saying he hopes Trump grows into the job. Most notably, based on his 90-minute meeting with the president elect the day after the election, Obama said he thinks Trump is not an ideologue but a pragmatist, which Obama forecast could serve Trump well.
“Yes I have concerns. He and I differ on a whole bunch of issues,” Obama conceded, but he cautioned Trump should be given time to realize that what makes a great campaign soundbite doesn’t’ necessarily make good policy.
To that end, Obama noted he’s heading to Europe, then Peru, to reassure leaders anxious about Trump’s presidency, and said is is going to be bringing them a commitment to NATO from the president-elect, which Trump has yet to state to a public that has heard him threaten NATO and a stated intent to undo some of Obama’s top international initiatives.
Obama’s news conference performance stood in marked contrast to his recent campaigning against Trump and on behalf of Dem White House hopeful Hillary Clinton, during which he said Trump is unqualified for the office and lacks the needed temperament. Today, Obama refused to bite when asked about Trump’s appointment of former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, saying it would not be appropriate of him to comment. Obama also declined to rise to the bait when asked to address his own campaign rhetoric about the POTUS-elect, saying, “The people have spoken. Donald trump will be the next president.”