Obama says goodbye to the world stage
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”. –