Obama in his final press conference advises Trump to think twice before taking measures with explosive consequences
Washington, Jan 19: Barack Obama addressed his final press conference as President of the US on Wednesday, two days before Donald Trump’s inauguration. He reflected on his time in office and promised to speak out if he felt that the “core values” of the country were threatened under Trump.
Obama also advised his successor to think twice before taking measures that could have “explosive” consequences.
He also expressed hope that there would be more diverse chief executives in the future and that the White House could see another black president.
“I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith and corner of the country,” he said. “We’re going to have a woman president, a Latino president, a Jewish president, a Hindu president. You know, who knows who we’re going to have,” according to a transcript posted by The New York Times.
Obama focused on defending his legacy and also on giving some advice and warnings to the President-elect, with whom he said he had held several “long” conversations about the transition of power, Efe news reported.
“There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” Obama said.
“I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.”
“I’d put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids, and send them someplace else, when they love this country.”
The President said that he wanted to distance himself from politics for a while, but that “there’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues … where I think our core values may be at stake.”
Obama also took advantage of the press conference to defend the importance of guaranteeing freedom of the press, given that the President-elect has openly insulted several media outlets that he says are “dishonest.”
Obama also defended some of his recent moves as president, including his decision to eliminate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Cuban migrants, which he said represented “a carryover of an old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age” within the context of normalizing relations with Cuba.
He also said that it made sense for him to commute the prison sentence of former US soldier Chelsea Manning, who in 2010 leaked numerous secret documents to WikiLeaks and who will be able to leave prison in May.
Despite Republican criticism, Obama said that he felt “very comfortable” with his decision on Manning, who “has served a tough prison sentence” after “due process was carried out”, and he added that he did not agree with the idea that her release sends a message that people who leak classified documents will remain unpunished.
He also defended his decision last December to have the US abstain from voting in the UN Security Council on – and not veto – a resolution condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, saying that he felt it was important to “send a signal, a wakeup call” to Israel that the time for implementing a two-state solution in the region may be ending.
Obama also referred to Trump’s recent remarks on the possibility of ending sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine in exchange for cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.
“The reason we imposed the sanctions … was not because of nuclear weapons issues, it was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon by force, by Russia. That wasn’t our judgment, that was the judgment of the entire international community,” he said, going on to advise Trump not to “confuse” the issue of Ukraine with nuclear matters.
The president closed the press conference on an optimistic note, saying that “I think we’re going to be OK,” despite the fears of many regarding Trump’s election win and what it may portend for US domestic and international policy.
“We just have to fight for (making the world better), we have to work for it and not take it for granted,” Obama said.