By NOLAN D. MCCASKILL 11/15/16 11:08 politico
President Barack Obama on Tuesday denied responsibility for the election of Donald Trump, suggesting Trump’s presidency may simply be a result of Americans’ decision to simply try something new.
“I think it’s fair to say that I was surprised by the election results, and I’ve said so. I still don’t feel responsible for what the president-elect says or does,” Obama said during a bilateral news conference alongside Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens. “But I do feel a responsibility as president of the United States to make sure that I facilitate a good transition and I present to him, as well as the American people, my best thinking, my best ideas about how you move the country forward, to speak out with respect to areas where I think the Republican Party’s wrong but to pledge to work with them on those things that I think will advance the causes of security and prosperity and justice and inclusiveness in America.”
Obama rejected direct parallels between Trump’s ascension and the rise of conservative politicians like Theresa May in the UK and Marine Le Pen in France. For one, Obama noted, May is a “fairly traditional conservative politician who’s now prime minister.”
“Those aren’t the same,” Obama said, comparing their rise with Trump’s. “And the situation in each country is different. I do think, as I said before, that history doesn’t move in a straight line. It zigs and zags and sometimes goes forward, sometimes moves back, sideways. I think at times of significant stress, people are gonna be looking for something, and they don’t always know exactly what it is that they’re looking for and they may opt for change, even if they’re not entirely confident what that change will bring.”
To be sure, Obama reveled in polling that indicates a majority of Americans still support his views.
“Throughout my presidency, I’m sure as a matter of convenience, I generally haven’t paid a lot of attention the polls, but since your question’s directly related to the notion of a rejection of my worldview: Last I checked, a pretty healthy majority of the American people agree with my worldview on a bunch of things,” he said. “And I know that that begs the question, ‘Well, how is it that somebody who appears to have a very different worldview just got elected?’ As I said, sometimes people just feel as if we wanna try something to see if we can shake things up, and that I suspect was a significant phenomenon.”
Beyond any particular election or movement, Obama warned, America will have to shield itself from “a rise in a crude sort of nationalism or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’”
“And I will never apologize for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is gonna be defined by what we have in common as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict,” he continued.
He pointed to 20th century Europe and a time not too long ago in the United States as evidence that nations are more prosperous and their people are better off when everyone comes together.
“In the United States, we know what happens when we start dividing ourselves along lines of race or religion or ethnicity,” he said. “It’s dangerous, not just for the minority groups that are subjected to that kind of discrimination or in some cases in the past, violence, but because we then don’t realize our potential as a country when we’re preventing blacks or Latinos or Asians or gays or women from fully participating in the project of building American life. So my vison’s right — on that issue.”
Obama added that his views may not “win the day in the short term” but expressed confidence that they will pay off eventually. “Societies in which we are able to unify ourselves around values and ideals and character and how we treat each other and cooperation and innovation ultimately are gonna be more successful than societies that don’t,” he said. “That’s my strong belief, and I think I’ve got pretty good evidence to prove it.”