Obama says good­bye to the world stage

The Myanmar Times - - World -

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama bid farewell to the world stage, pon­der­ing his legacy, of­fer­ing ad­vice to his suc­ces­sor and dis­cussing his post-pres­i­den­tial life at the end of his fi­nal tour.

His his­toric pres­i­dency and charisma have made Mr Obama a rock star on the in­ter­na­tional scene, even at times when the daily grind of pol­i­tics dimmed the glow around his elec­tion as the United States’ first black pres­i­dent in 2008.

Mr Obama spoke to both the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the world as he gave his fi­nal for­eign press con­fer­ence in Lima, Peru, on Novem­ber 20, in­sist­ing that ul­ti­mately those two au­di­ences are in­sep­a­ra­bly linked.

It was a key mes­sage as he pre­pares to hand over to Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has spooked the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity with his volatile style and iso­la­tion­ist rhetoric.

Sev­eral fel­low world lead­ers said an emo­tional good­bye as they wrapped up the APEC sum­mit.

Mr Obama’s last pres­i­den­tial trip was dom­i­nated by the deep un­cer­tainty Mr Trump has un­leashed about the post­war world order with his at­tacks on free trade and the US role as “po­lice­man of the world”.

Mr Obama said an in­creas­ingly bor­der­less world has brought “his­toric gains in pros­per­ity, ed­u­ca­tion and health”, but ac­knowl­edged glob­al­i­sa­tion had both win­ners and losers.

It was an awk­ward trip for Mr Obama, who cam­paigned against Mr Trump as an un­fit suc­ces­sor but now wants to re­as­sure al­lies on the fu­ture.

He asked the world to treat the brash bil­lion­aire as he him­self vowed to do: “Wait and see”. At the same time, he sought to pre-empt his suc­ces­sor on some key is­sues.

He said Mr Trump’s pres­i­dency would likely be far dif­fer­ent from his can­di­dacy.

“Once you’re in the Oval Of­fice, once you be­gin in­ter­act­ing with world lead­ers, once you see the com­plex­i­ties of the is­sues, that has a way of shap­ing your think­ing,” he said.

The bru­tal war in Syria has been the most dif­fi­cult for­eign pol­icy chal­lenge of Mr Obama’s eight years in the White House.

He de­fended his de­ci­sion not to in­vade the coun­try, but warned no end to the blood­shed was in sight.

Mr Obama also voiced re­gret that, de­spite high ap­proval rat­ings, he was stymied on is­sues like gun con­trol, a min­i­mum wage in­crease and in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing. But he de­fended the val­ues of his pres­i­dency.

“The touch­stone is what’s good for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said.

“At the end of the day and at the end of eight years, I can look back and say that I con­sis­tently did what I thought was best. Doesn’t mean you don’t make mis­takes. But it means you’re be­ing true to your oath and the com­mit­ments you made to the peo­ple who elected you.”

Mr Obama was clear about his first pri­or­ity for post-pres­i­den­tial life: “Take wife Michelle on va­ca­tion.”

The pres­i­dent said he wants to “get some rest, spend time with my girls and do some writ­ing, do some think­ing”. –

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