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Obama Says That He Doesn't Feel 'Responsible' for Trump's Presidency

Obama Says That He Doesn't Feel 'Responsible' for Trump's Presidency

President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Following a conciliatory meeting last week, President Obama distanced himself from the president-elect in an Athens press conference.

President Barack Obama claimed that he is not "responsible" for Donald Trump during a press conference in Athens on the sitting president's European tour.

Last week, Obama had a conciliatory sit down with the president-elect in which the two men discussed the peaceful transition of power, as well as preserving key tenets of Obama's legacy, including the Affordable Care Act. The meeting appears to have gone well, considering that Trump has publicly backed off the repeal of Obamacare, one of his central campaign promises.

The president, however, struck a different note on his European tour, in which he claimed Trump's decisions are out of his hands.

"I think it's fair to say that I was surprised by the election results, and I've said so," Obama told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. "I still don't feel responsible for what the president-elect says or does. But I do feel a responsibility as president of the United States, to make sure that I facilitate a good transition and I present to him, as well as the American people, my best thinking, my best ideas about how you move the country forward."

Obama believes that the forces that fueled Trump's presidency are the ones that propelled him to the White House -- the desire for "change," except that this time the pendulum has swung in the wrong direction.

"History doesn't move in a straight line," he said. "It zigs and zags and sometimes goes forward, sometimes moves back, sideways. I think at times of significant stress, people are gonna be looking for something, and they don't always know exactly what it is that they're looking for and they may opt for change, even if they're not entirely confident what that change will bring."

The president said that the next four years will be a challenge to American democracy, as Trump's presidency was built on division, bigotry, and what he called "a rise in a crude sort of nationalism or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an 'us' and a 'them.'"

"In the United States, we know what happens when we start dividing ourselves along lines of race or religion or ethnicity," he said. "It's dangerous, not just for the minority groups that are subjected to that kind of discrimination or in some cases in the past, violence, but because we then don't realize our potential as a country when we're preventing blacks or Latinos or Asians or gays or women from fully participating in the project of building American life."

Quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Prime Minister Tsipras agreed that the election, as well as unrest in the U.S., is reminiscent of the fascism that seized Europe in the early 20th century, as people looked to far-right nationalist groups for purpose during an uncertain time.

"People who are hungry, people who are out of a job, are the stuff of which dictatorships are made," Tsipras said, a nod to FDR's January 1944 State of the Union address.

Unfortunately, the Greek leader claimed we don't know what to expect from President Trump.

"It was one thing what we knew of Donald Trump when he was seeking to become the candidate of the Republican Party, another thing during the election, and now that he is president-elect," Tsipras said, "and it is quite another when he will be the president of a country that is a major player, a global player."

Pointing to poll numbers that show high favorability in the final weeks of his second term, Obama claimed that history will vindicate his view of what America can be: strong in its diversity.

"Last I checked, a pretty healthy majority of the American people agree with my worldview on a bunch of things," the POTUS said, adding: "My vision's right on that issue and it may not always win the day in the short term, and in [this] particular political circumstance, but I'm confident it'll win the day over the long term."

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