“I did say to him, as I’ve said publicly, that because of the nature of the campaigns, and the bitterness and ferocity of the campaigns, that it’s really important to try to send some signals of unity, and to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign,” Obama told the packed White House Press Room. “And I think that’s something that he will want to do. But this is all happening real fast. He’s got commitments to supporters that helped to get him here, and he’s going to have to balance those.”
After months of railing that Trump was “unfit to be president” Obama now indicates what’s most important is the peaceful transfer of power.
“Look, the people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next President, the 45th President of the United States,” he said. “And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies. And those who didn’t vote for him have to recognize that that’s how democracy works. That’s how this system operates.”
Trump’s vitriolic manner of speaking and acting appeared to immediately change after the election. In his victory speech, he promised to be president for “all of America.”
Despite the ugliness of the campaign between him and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he praised her for a hard-fought race; then said America owes her a “debt of gratitude” for many years of service to the country.
In a White House meeting with President Obama last week – the first time the two had met in person – Trump called Obama a “very good man” and said he even looks forward to receiving counsel from him.
Obama was not as flattering, but was clear that he intends to do everything possible to insure Trump’s success. He also expressed confidence that Trump intends to govern fairly despite his campaign antics that insulted women, Blacks, handicapped people, and veterans among others. But, Obama said he believes the Donald Trump that America saw on the campaign trail will not be the same Donald Trump in the White House.
“And my advice, as I said, to the President-elect when we had our discussions was that campaigning is different from governing. I think he recognizes that. I think he’s sincere in wanting to be a successful President and moving this country forward,” Obama said. “And I don’t think any President ever comes in saying to themselves, I want to figure out how to make people angry or alienate half the country. I think he’s going to try as best he can to make sure that he delivers, not only for the people who voted for him, but for the people at large. And the good thing is, is that there are going to be elections coming up, so there’s a built-in incentive for him to try to do that.”
Some are not as convinced as Obama. The NAACP, the day after the election, reflected on Trump’s hateful words during the election and vowed to watch and hold Trump accountable.
“The 2016 campaign has made racism regular, anti-Semitism standard, xenophobia unexceptional, and misogyny mainstream,” said NAACP President Cornell Brooks in a statement. “Now, we must do everything within our power as a movement to prevent these social poisons from tearing our country apart. During this critical period of transition, we are calling upon President-elect Donald J. Trump to speak and act with the moral clarity necessary to silence the dog-whistle racial politics that have characterized recent months and have left many of our fellow citizens snarling at one another in anger and even whimpering in fear.”
The statement concluded, “We are ready and willing to work with a new administration to protect and advance civil and human rights for all Americans. We are also prepared to fight any attempt to roll back the progress we’ve been working toward for more than a century.”
Trump has sent mixed messages in his initial appointments. On one hand, he has appointed Republican Chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff. On the other hand he has appointed Stephen Bannon, the head of the racist and White supremacist website, Breitbart, for nearly a decade. Bannon had run Trump’s campaign during the final months. At the end of the campaign, the racist campaign remarks had gotten so bad that even the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan endorsed Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump has already back away from or softened at least three of his hardline campaign promises. Instead of completely repealing the entire Affordable Health Care plan, better known as “Obamacare”, he now says he hopes to keep key parts of it; instead of a mass deportation force for illegal immigrants; he now says he will initially look to deport only criminals. He has also backed away from his threat to appoint a special prosecutor and have Hillary Clinton investigated and possibly jailed. He said in a CBS interview that the Clintons are “good people” and “I don’t want to hurt them.”
Continuing in his conciliatory tone, Obama explained how he perceived Trump’s politics.
“So given that President-elect Trump is now trying to balance what he said in the campaign and the commitments he made to his supporters with working with those who disagreed with him, and members of Congress, and reaching out to constituencies that didn’t vote for him, I think it’s important for us to let him make his decisions,” Obama said. “And I think the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see, and whether these are the kinds of policies and this is the direction that they want to see the country go in.”