Obama urges unity after Trump victory

Obama urges unity after Trump victory

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
Yahoo NewsNovember 9, 2016

President Obama promised on Wednesday to ensure a smooth handover of power to Donald Trump come January. He acknowledged “significant differences” on major issues with his elected successor but declared that Americans are “all on the same team.”

“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting, and leading, this country,” Obama told a crowd of roughly 150 bleary-eyed aides in the Rose Garden of the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden standing next to him.

“Everybody is sad when their side loses an election,” the president said. “But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for our country.”

Obama, who said he had spoken to the president-elect at around 3:30 a.m., said his administration would work hard to make Trump’s Jan. 20 assumption of his duties smooth — as hard as then President George W. Bush did when the former Illinois senator won his historic race in 2008. The president added that he had invited Trump to the White House on Thursday.

Obama also praised Hillary Clinton and tried to lift the spirits of downcast Democrats grieving their shock defeat.

“I could not be prouder of her,” Obama said. “A lot of Americans look up to her. Her candidacy and nomination was historic and sends a message to our daughters all across the country that they can achieve at the highest level of politics. And I am absolutely confident that she and President Clinton will continue to do great work for people here in the United States and all around the world.”

Despite the somber tone, there were lighter moments in Obama’s remarks. He joked about predicting that the sun would come up no matter the outcome of the election and noted “that is one bit of prognosticating that actually came true” — a clear joke about public opinion polls that failed to predict the election outcome.

At another point, Obama said, “I’ve lost elections before. Joe hasn’t.” Biden clasped the president’s shoulders, smiled, and observed, “You beat me badly,” sending a small ripple of chuckles through the crowd.

Election 2016: President Obama speaks about Trump victory in the Rose Garden of the White House. Election 2016: President Obama speaks about Trump victory in the Rose Garden of the White House.
President Obama talks about the election in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Obama’s subdued remarks came after he spent months attacking Trump from the campaign trail and the White House, bluntly declaring the former reality show star “unfit” to hold the office, mocking his “yapping” about terrorism, and confidently predicting that the voters would reject someone he routinely described as unstable and intolerant.

“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief,” Obama thundered at a rally in Philadelphia on the eve of the election. “Over the weekend, his campaign took away his Twitter account because he’s erratic. If his closest advisers don’t trust him to tweet, why would any of us trust him with the nuclear codes?”

And, the president continued, Trump “has shown utter contempt for the values that make this nation great. Anyone who sees women as objects, minorities and immigrants as inferior, other faiths as presumptively un-American cannot lead this diverse, dynamic, big-hearted country that we love.”

Instead, American voters repudiated Obama’s scolding message and handed the self-described billionaire the most spectacular upset victory in modern political history. And in doing so, they ensured that the country’s first black president will, come Jan. 20, hand power to the man most closely associated with the racist-tinged “birther” conspiracy that he was not born in the United States.

Trump’s victory also clearly imperils the legacy Obama built over his two consequential terms. The Republican will get to nominate at least one, and potentially three, Supreme Court justices, thus potentially shaping the court for decades to come. Republicans have seized on the election results to promise a new push to repeal Obamacare, the current president’s signature domestic achievement. The Democrat’s executive actions on issues like immigration or climate change seem on course for reversal. The fate of his nuclear deal with Iran and his outreach to Cuba, which are policies the Obama administration White House has tried to make “irreversible,” are now in doubt.

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“I think of this job as being a relay runner,” Obama said. “You take the baton, you run your best race and, hopefully, by the time you hand it off, you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress. And I can say that we’ve done that, and I want to make sure that handoff is well executed because ultimately we’re all on the same team.”


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