Obama de­fends record af­ter elec­tion for ‘change’

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Christi Par­sons Los An­ge­les Times staff writer Michael A. Me­moli con­trib­uted.

ATHENS, Greece — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ac­knowl­edged Tues­day that vot­ers may have elected Don­ald Trump in part out of “nat­u­ral de­sires for change,” but he bat­ted down the idea that Amer­i­can vot­ers gave an “out­right re­jec­tion of my world­view.”

Hours af­ter ar­riv­ing in Greece to be­gin his fi­nal for­eign tour as pres­i­dent, Obama tried to ex­plain the Amer­i­can elec­tion, al­low­ing el­lip­ti­cally for the first time that Trump’s elec­tion might have been a re­pu­di­a­tion of his own pres­i­dency.

Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, Obama said, can turn on “per­son­al­i­ties” as well as cam­paigns. Some­times there are “nat­u­ral de­sires for change when you have an in­cum­bent who’s been there for eight years,” Obama said.

Still, “a pretty healthy ma­jor­ity of the Amer­i­can peo­ple agree” with his vi­sion, Obama said, even though they did not elect Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton on her prom­ise to con­tinue it.

“Some­times peo­ple just feel as if we want to try some­thing to see if we can shake things up, and that, I sus­pect, was a sig­nif­i­cant phe­nom­e­non,” Obama said.

De­fend­ing his record, Obama said that his eco­nomic agenda for eight years — rais­ing wages, in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture and ed­u­ca­tion — was di­rected at ad­dress­ing the anx­i­eties that Trump tapped into through­out his cam­paign. “The prob­lem was, I couldn’t con­vince a Repub­li­can Congress to pass a lot of them,” he said. “Hav­ing said that, peo­ple seem to think I did a pretty good job. And so there is this mis­match be­tween frus­tra­tion and anger.”

Re­act­ing to Trump’s stun­ning elec­tion upset for the sec­ond time in less than a day, this time on for­eign soil, Obama drew a dis­tinc­tion be­tween Trump’s vic­tory and the Brexit vote in Bri­tain this sum­mer, but also re­flected on how na­tion­al­ist sen­ti­ment that is threat­en­ing Euro­pean unity might in­hibit Amer­ica’s own suc­cess.

Glob­al­iza­tion and tech­nol­ogy have “dis­rupted” peo­ple’s lives, but ul­ti­mately those trends can be pos­i­tive, es­pe­cially if lead­ers are re­spon­sive to those con­cerns and can con­tinue to ap­peal to and ex­plain the ben­e­fits of col­lec­tive ac­tion.

Euro­peans ought to know from the con­ti­nent’s 20th cen­tury his­tory of au­thor­i­tar­ian rule what hap­pens when they start “di­vid­ing them­selves up and em­pha­siz­ing their dif­fer­ences,” Obama said.

The re­marks fol­lowed Obama’s morn­ing Pres­i­dent Obama met with with Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras. ar­rival in Athens, where eight years af­ter the global eco­nomic cri­sis, Greek lead­ers are still grap­pling with a mas­sive na­tional debt and de­pressed econ­omy.

Of­fi­cials greeted Obama’s ar­rival as one last chance to har­ness his sup­port in their push for a Euro­pean debt re­lief package. An aide to Obama said he will sup­port ef­forts to win “mean­ing­ful debt re­lease” so that the econ­omy can start grow­ing again.

Aides have said that on the trip, which also in­cludes stops in Ger­many and Peru, Obama won’t try to rep­re­sent — or guess at — Trump’s plans or points of view.

“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 fa­cil­i­tate a smooth tran­si­tion,” Obama said.

Still, in meet­ings with the Greek pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter on Tues­day, Obama pro­jected as hope­ful a mes­sage as he could, mak­ing a point of as­sur­ing each leader of the strong U.S. com­mit­ment to its al­lies.

ORESTIS PANA­GIOTOU/ANA-MPA

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