Obama bids farewell to world stage af­ter 8 years

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

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

His his­toric pres­i­dency and charisma have made 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.

Obama spoke to both the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the world as he gave his final for­eign press con­fer­ence in Lima, Peru.

But ul­ti­mately, those two au­di­ences are in­sep­a­ra­bly linked, he in­sisted.

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

Sev­eral of Obama’s fel­low world lead­ers said an emo­tional good­bye as they wrapped up a sum­mit.

“It’s a great mo­ment, but a sad mo­ment, to have our last meet­ing,” said Australian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull.

“I am go­ing to miss hav­ing Barack around,” said Canada’s Justin Trudeau, in com­ments that were tinged with a sense of un­cer­tainty about things to come.

Here are some key points from Obama’s re­marks: Glob­al­i­sa­tion Obama’s last pres­i­den­tial trip was dom­i­nated by the deep un­cer­tainty Trump has un­leashed about the post­war world order with his at­tacks on free trade and the US role as “po­lice­man of the world”.

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

“When jobs and cap­i­tal can move across bor­ders, when work­ers have less lever­age, when wealthy cor­po­ra­tions seem to be play­ing by a dif­fer­ent set of rules, then work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties can be hit es­pe­cially hard,” he said.

“That can re­ver­ber­ate through our politics. That’s why I firmly be­lieve one of our great­est chal­lenges in the years ahead across our na­tions and within them will be to make sure that the ben­e­fits of the global econ­omy are shared.” Trump It was an awk­ward trip for Obama, who cam­paigned against Trump as an un­fit suc­ces­sor but now wants to re­as­sure US 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 an­nounced his sig­na­ture trade agree­ment in the Asia-Pa­cific, the TPP, was still alive de­spite Trump’s vows to kill it, and said he wanted to reach a deal on the Ukraine cri­sis be­fore leav­ing of­fice.

He said 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,” Obama said. Syria The bru­tal war in Syria has been the most dif­fi­cult for­eign pol­icy chal­lenge of 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.

“I am not op­ti­mistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” he said, blam­ing Rus­sian and Ira­nian sup­port for the Bashar al-As­sad regime.

“As­sad has been em­bold­ened. This is [a] man who has de­cided that de­stroy­ing his coun­try, turn­ing it to rub­ble and see­ing its pop­u­la­tion scat­tered or killed was worth it for him to cling to power,” he said.

“At this stage, we’re go­ing to need to have a change in how all par­ties think about this.” Legacy Obama 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.” Life af­ter pres­i­dency Obama was clear about his first pri­or­ity for post­pres­i­den­tial life: “Take [First Lady] Michelle on va­ca­tion.”

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

He does not plan to im­me­di­ately wade back into politics.

“I want to be re­spect­ful of the of­fice and give the pres­i­dent-elect an op­por­tu­nity to put for­ward his plat­form,” he said. But Obama didn’t rule it out al­to­gether. “As an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who cares deeply about our coun­try, if there’s specifics that have less to do with some pro­posal or bat­tle but goes to core ques­tions about our val­ues and our ideals, and if I think that it’s nec­es­sary or help­ful for me to de­fend those ideals then I’ll ex­am­ine it when it comes,” he said. — AFP

Barack Obama

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