President Obama predicted Monday that Donald Trump and his Republican congressional majorities will find it harder than they think to undo key parts of his legacy, like Obamacare, the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement. Obama also described the president-elect as “pragmatic” and said that, for those who are not ready, “this office has a way of waking you up.”
Speaking at a press conference before his final overseas trip, Obama also revealed some of the advice he gave Trump in their face-to-face, 90-minute
“I emphasized to him that, look, in an election like this that was so hotly contested and so divided, gestures matter,” the president told reporters. “And how he reaches out to groups that may not have supported him, how he signals his interest in their issues or concerns, I think those are the kinds of things that can set a tone that will help move things forward once he has actually taken office.”
Obama said he also impressed on Trump that “how he staffs, the first steps he takes, the first impressions he makes, the reset that can happen after an election, all those things are important and should be thought about,” and urged the former reality show star’s opponents to “give him the room and the space to do that.”
The president sidestepped a question about Trump’s decision to
“The people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next president, the 45th president of the United States,” Obama said. “Hopefully, it’s a reminder that elections matter and voting counts.”
Obama, who was bound for Greece, Germany and Peru, said he would reassure skittish European leaders there that Trump is wed to America’s treaty obligations to defend any NATO ally under attack by Russia. During the campaign, Trump had suggested that he
“In my conversation with the president-elect he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships, and so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the Trans-Atlantic Alliance,” the president said. “I think that’s one of the most important functions I can serve at this stage during this trip is to let them know that there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America’s commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship.”
While declining to repeat his campaign attack on Trump as
“There are going to be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well unless he recognizes them and corrects them, because when you’re a candidate and you say something that is inaccurate or controversial, it has less impact than it does when you’re president of the United States,” Obama said.
The president also predicted that even a unified Republican government would struggle to roll back significant parts of his legacy, which Democrat Hillary Clinton made a key part of her losing campaign platform.
Republicans, who have promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, must now decide how to handle popular parts of the law, like coverage for people with preexisting conditions and provisions enabling young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26.
“Now comes the hard part. Now is governance,” he said.
The same goes for the Iran nuclear deal, Obama said, underlining that America’s diplomatic partners in Europe are unlikely to walk away from the pact.
“Iran is a good example of the gap, I think, between some of the rhetoric in this town, not unique to the president-elect, and the reality,” he said. “To unravel a deal that’s working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain, particularly if the alternative were to have them free from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a weapon.”
Obama made a similar argument about the Paris climate agreement, saying that utilities and car companies are benefiting from the shift to cleaner energy.
It remains to be seen how many of his own campaign proposals the freewheeling businessman will try to keep. Trump has long promised to retain some of Obamacare’s more popular measures. He has fiercely criticized the Iran nuclear deal, but a top
Obama said he would ask Trump not to reverse a program under which many so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, can stay in the United States. During the campaign, Trump pledged to do exactly that.
“I will urge the president-elect and the incoming administration to think long and hard before they are endangering the status of what for all practical purposes are American kids,” Obama said.