Follow @lynnsweetWASHINGTON – After eight years, a sentimental, reflective President Barack Obama wrapped it up on Wednesday. Most of all, he seemed at peace with himself as he eagerly starts his next chapter on Friday.
“At my core, I think we’re going to be OK,” Obama said. He was bucking up, it seemed, those in the nation who are – to put it mildly – panicking over the impending Donald Trump presidency.
Unless something unexpected happens, Obama delivered his last remarks as the 44th president of the United States at this press conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room.
The 59-minute session was heavy on the optimism that propelled him to this job in 2008. He talked about what he will do next. He applauded his daughters. He said he enjoyed working with the press. I took the salute more as jab to Trump, because he is so hostile to journalists.
Follow @lynnsweetThe nation’s first black president was asked if thought he would be followed by a second.
“In fact [if] we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then yeah, we’re going to have a woman president. We’re going to have a Latino president. And we’ll have a Jewish president, a Hindu president. You know, who knows who we’re going to have.”
Obama has been talking with Trump, offering some big doses of the reality of being the president. He suggested that the gut moves Trump used to win the White House are not enough to govern from the Oval Office.
As a practical matter, Trump will start with few of his Cabinet picks in place.
“I can tell you that — and this is something I have told him — that this is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself. You are enormously reliant on a team. Your Cabinet, your senior White House staff, all the way to fairly junior folks in their 20s and 30s, but who are executing on significant responsibilities.
“And so how you put a team together to make sure that they’re getting you the best information and they are teeing up the options from which you will ultimately make decisions, that’s probably the most useful advice, the most constructive advice that I’ve been able to give him.
“That if you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you’re only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, or if you haven’t created a process that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions about policies or promises that you’ve made, that’s when you start making mistakes.”
On Friday, the Obama family boards a helicopter at the Capitol after the inauguration to fly to Andrews Air Force Base. They will take their last ride on a presidential aircraft to Palm Springs, California, where they will take a vacation before returning to Washington, where they will live for a few years while Sasha finishes high school.
Obama these past weeks has talked about finding an inner “quiet.”
“It’s important for me to take some time to process this amazing experience that we’ve gone through; to make sure that my wife, with whom I will be celebrating a 25th anniversary this year, is willing to re-up and put up with me for a little bit longer. I want to do some writing. I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much. I want to spend precious time with my girls.”
Obama was asked a personal question – how he and first lady Michelle talked to Sasha and Malia “about the meaning of the election.”
And he used it as sort of a grand summing up of what these eight Obama years will leave for history.
“I think that they have, in part through osmosis, in part through dinnertime conversations, appreciated the fact that this is a big, complicated country, and democracy is messy and it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want, it doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes. But if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country, and there’s a core decency to this country, and that they got to be a part of lifting that up. “
“… I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard, and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.
Said Obama, “That’s what this presidency has tried to be about.”