It was perhaps the unthinkable: President Obama meeting with his successor at the White House in the first step to carry out the peaceful transition of power in the American Republic — and it’s Donald Trump.
But that’s exactly what happened Thursday morning in what amounts to one of the more surreal moments in American political history.
President-elect Trump, who rose to political fame by questioning the birth place of the sitting president, said he had “great respect” for President Obama, called him a “very fine man” and said he would seek his “counsel” in the future. Trump, who noted that the two had never met before, said they were slated to speak for maybe 10 to 15 minutes, but the meeting, which lasted more than an hour and a half, could have gone on even longer. Trump said they talked about “difficulties” around the world, but also accomplishments.
“I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel,” Trump said. “He’s— he explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets, and some of the really great things that have been achieved.”
Obama described it as an “excellent conversation” and “wide-ranging” — from how to organizationally set up a White House to foreign and domestic policy.
“I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together to deal with the many challenges that we face,” Obama said, adding that he wanted Trump and his wife Melania, the incoming first lady, to feel “welcome” as they make the transition.
“And most of all,” Obama continued, “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”
First Lady Michelle Obama and incoming First Lady Melania Trump are also meeting. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was spotted by the White House pool taking a walk on the South Lawn with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Kushner played a key role in Trump’s campaign.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has been rumored to potentially serve as Trump’s chief of staff, though he told NBC he’s had “no conversations” about that. Whether Trump were to make Kushner his chief of staff would be remarkable, given he’s a member of the family, but even if not, it’s clear he is poised to play a key role as an adviser in President Trump’s inner circle. Among other things, Kushner is the publisher of the New York Observer.
Trump has been a thorn in Obama’s side. He rose to political fame, using the birther movement to translate his pop-culture notoriety as a real estate mogul turned reality-TV star into an improbable winning presidential campaign.
Trump used the birther issue to stir up a base of antipathy toward this president. It wasn’t even so much that the largely rural, white, populist voters, who eventually propelled Trump into the White House, even really believed the allegations. They just liked that Trump spoke to them when they felt ignored — by the professional class, the Washington establishment and the media elites — and was willing to annoy and disrupt them all.
What Trump accomplished is nothing short of a populist, white-working class revolt — even as Hillary Clinton won more popular votes (as latest counting) nationwide. Trump was able to win giant margins in white, rural counties, especially in the industrial North and Midwest, like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. It was enough to offset Clinton’s margins in the cities and suburbs, upending decades of the fundamentals of political thought and analysis.
(Source: NPR, SUN)