Obama reserves right to nag Trump from sidelines

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By Dave Boyer – The Washington Times

President Obama wouldn’t promise Sunday that he will resist nagging Donald Trump from the sidelines after he leaves office, despite his predecessor, George W. Bush, studiously avoiding criticism of his presidency.

The president said as a citizen “who cares deeply about our country,” he might feel the need to weigh in on “core questions about our values and our ideals.”

“If I think it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, then I’ll examine it when it comes,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference in Lima, Peru. He acknowledged that Mr. Bush “could not have been more gracious to me” when he took office.

Mr. Obama, who called Mr. Trump “unfit” to serve as president during the campaign, said he’ll try to stay out of the Republican’s way.

“I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance,” Mr. Obama said.

The president again predicted that Mr. Trump will back off of some of his campaign promises when he is confronted with the “reality” of governing.

  “What I can guarantee is that reality will force him to adjust how he approaches many of these issues,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s just the way this office works.”

Asked about a leadership challenge to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California by Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Mr. Obama also took the unusual step of giving Mrs. Pelosi an endorsement from South America.

“I think Nancy Pelosi is an outstanding and historic political leader,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t normally meddle with party votes. Certainly on my way out the door, I shouldn’t meddle here. But I cannot speak highly enough of Nancy Pelosi. She combines strong, progressive values with just extraordinary political skill. She does stuff that’s tough, not just stuff that’s easy. I think she’s a remarkable leader.”

Mr. Obama’s comments came as he wrapped up his final foreign trip, in which he spent much of his time trying to reassure allies that Mr. Trump won’t alter U.S. foreign policy significantly.

“With respect to Latin America, I don’t anticipate major changes in policy from the new administration,” Mr. Obama said at a town-hall meeting with young people in Peru Saturday.

Mr. Trump has promised to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a stalled free-trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific-rim nations, within the first 100 days of his administration. Mr. Obama acknowledged that trade is one area where his policies are especially vulnerable.

“There are going to be tensions that arise, probably around trade more than anything else, because the president-elect campaigned on looking at every trade policy and potentially reversing those,” he said.

Yet Mr. Obama said he believes that after Mr. Trump’s team reviews his trade policies, they will find them to be “actually working” and will make only “modifications.”

“How you campaign isn’t always how you govern,” Mr. Obama said. “Sometimes, when you campaign, you’re trying to stir up passions. When you’re governing, you’re trying to think of, ‘How do I make this work?’”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key suggested that the TPP should be renamed the “Trump Pacific Partnership” to satisfy the president-elect.

Mr. Key said there was “tremendous despair” among attendees of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit about Mr Trump’s position on trade.

“Even if the United States doesn’t want to engage in free trade, President Trump needs to know other countries do,” Mr. Key said.

At the summit, Mr. Obama held his final meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The White House described Mr. Obama’s unscheduled meeting with Mr. Putin as “informal,” and pointedly noted that it lasted only four minutes. It was apparent the two leaders didn’t resolve their well-known differences, which include accusations by the U.S. that Russians hacked into the U.S. election system and Democratic Party files this year in an attempt to influence the presidential election.

Mr. Obama spoke to Mr. Putin about the need for the U.S. and Moscow to work together “to diminish the violence and alleviate the suffering” in Syria’s long-running civil war, the White House said. The Russian military backs the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, while the U.S. supports rebels with non-lethal military aid.

The White House said they also discussed Russia’s continued military aggression in Ukraine.

“Beyond pleasantries, the president urged President Putin to uphold Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, underscoring the U.S. and our partners’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the White House said.

The president said he didn’t discuss Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections because “that’s behind us.”

In the meeting with the Chinese president, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and China will “intensify our efforts” to denuclearize North Korea.

Mr. Xi said their meeting came “at a hinge moment in the China-U.S. relationship,” with Mr. Trump about to take office.

“I hope the two sides will work together to focus on cooperation, manage our differences and make sure there is a smooth transition in the relationship, and that it will continue to grow going forward,” the Chinese president said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s invited President-elect Trump to visit Canada soon after his inauguration on Jan. 20, but acknowledged a special progressive bond with Mr. Obama.

“Obviously I am going to miss having Barack around to work the Canada-U.S. relationship with,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters. “We share a tremendous amount of values and outlook on the future. But I know at the same time … the relationship between Canada and the United States is extraordinarily deep and important and I look forward to welcoming the president-elect up to Canada.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Mr. Obama in a separate meeting that he was sad to see him go.

“We want America to succeed under the next president just as it did under your leadership,” he told Mr. Obama.

 

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