In­side: Vouch­ing for Trump, Obama says U.S. will main­tain al­liances >>

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kath­leen Hennessey

Vouch­ing for the suc­ces­sor he never imag­ined hav­ing, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Mon­day sought to re­as­sure an anx­ious na­tion and world that Don­ald Trump would main­tain Amer­ica’s al­liances and its sta­tus as the “in­dis­pens­able na­tion.” He cred­ited the pres­i­dent-elect for tap­ping into Amer­i­can vot­ers’ anx­i­ety and en­thu­si­asm.

“Do I have con­cerns?” Obama added. “Ab­so­lutely.”

Speak­ing at a White House news con­fer­ence be­fore a three-na­tion trip that was sup­posed to be his grand vale­dic­tory tour, Obama point­edly re­fused to crit­i­cize Trump, who only a week ago Obama said was “woe­fully un­pre­pared for the job” and couldn’t “han­dle the nu­clear codes.”

In­stead, Obama did his best to soothe the pangs of un­cer­tainty at home and abroad af­ter a di­vi­sive cam­paign that in­cluded charges of racism, sex­ism and other of­fen­sive rhetoric, and ques­tions from Trump about the va­lid­ity of the United States’ se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ships in Europe and Asia.

“There is enor­mous con­ti­nu­ity ... that makes us that in­dis­pens­able na­tion when it comes to main­tain­ing or­der around the world,” Obama said. Re­la­tion­ships and poli­cies go be­yond pres­i­dents, he said, adding that mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, diplo­mats and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers would co­op­er­ate with their for­eign coun­ter­parts as be­fore.

In his White House meet­ing with Trump last week, Obama said the Repub­li­can “‘’ex­pressed a great in­ter­est in main­tain­ing our core strate­gic re­la­tion­ships,” in­clud­ing “strong and ro­bust NATO” part­ner­ships.

It was a sharp change in tone for Obama, who reg­u­larly mocked Trump’s can­di­dacy in the last days be­fore the elec­tion, even ac­cus­ing the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man and for­mer re­al­ity tele­vi­sion star of help­ing the Is­lamic State group with his rhetoric about Mus­lims and un­der­min­ing U.S. democ­racy through his claims of a “rigged” elec­tion. At the time, al­most all polls showed Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton lead­ing Trump.

Asked about one of Trump’s most con­tentious moves since his tri­umph, ap­point­ing Steve Ban­non as chief strate­gist and se­nior ad­viser, Obama said it was up to the pres­i­dent-elect to ap­point a team that will serve him well.

“It takes a while for peo­ple to rec­on­cile them­selves with that new re­al­ity,” Obama said of the choice of Ban­non, a man cel­e­brated by the white na­tion­al­ist move­ment. Of Trump, Obama said “it’s im­por­tant for us to let him make his de­ci­sions.” But adding a hint of worry, Obama said he coun­seled Trump dur­ing their White House meet­ing: “It’s re­ally im­por­tant to send some sig­nals of unity.”

Whereas Obama hailed Trump’s “im­pres­sive” abil­ity to speak to vot­ers, he also de­liv­ered a sub­tle cri­tique of Clin­ton’s cam­paign.

He said Democrats must broaden their fo­cus be­yond just swing states af­ter an elec­tion that left the Se­nate and House in Repub­li­can hands, as well as most of the na­tion’s gover­nor’s man­sions. He re­jected the idea that de­mo­graphic ad­van­tages would lead to all­but-as­sured vic­to­ries for the party, say­ing it must re­build at the lo­cal, state and na­tional lev­els.

“We’re go­ing to have to com­pete ev­ery­where,” he said, re­flect­ing on his own 2008 win in Iowa, a state that went for Trump this time. “We’re go­ing to have to show up ev­ery­where.”

Clin­ton kept a rel­a­tively light cam­paign sched­ule un­til the fi­nal weeks of her cam­paign, mostly at­tend­ing smaller events in bat­tle­ground states. Her cam­paign fo­cused heav­ily on mo­ti­vat­ing the Demo­cratic base of women and mi­nor­ity vot­ers, rather than sway­ing in­de­pen­dents. “Good ideas don’t mat­ter if peo­ple don’t hear them,” Obama said.

While Obama is in Ger­many, Greece and Peru, he said his team would ac­cel­er­ate ef­forts to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

He stressed that he would try to strengthen the Amer­i­can econ­omy over his fi­nal two months, so that “when we turn over the keys, the car’s in pretty good shape.”

SU­SAN WALSH — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ges­tures dur­ing Tues­day’s news con­fer­ence at the White House.

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