WASHINGTON, November 10, 2016 — President Obama and President Elect Trump met today at the White House, a historical meeting that is the first step in the democratic process that makes America unique: the peaceful transference of power that has defined our democracy for over 200 years.
Obama and Trump have had a rocky past. At the 2011 White House dinner, Obama roasted Trump in a very public forum. Some say that this was the moment Trump decided to run for the presidency.
This public roasting followed Trump’s questions about Obama’s U.S. citizenship. But that was then; this is now. Obama says he is “rooting” for Trump; Clinton says “[Trump] deserves a chance to lead.”
Today’s visit was about the personal and political, and about the policies of America’s past and future.
First Lady Michelle Obama met with Melania Trump, leaving many wondering what it would be like to be a fly on the wall in that room. Bets are that Melania handled herself with aplomb and class. Mrs. Trump is neither weak nor a violet, and Mrs. Obama is polite and gracious.
Mrs. Trump met staff, toured the private residence and learned the ins and outs of managing her domain inside the people’s house.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest insists that Obama is sincere about ensuring a smooth handover and intended to be gracious and helpful when he and Trump met today, though he also said “I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy meeting.” But Trump has shown he moves forward instead of looking back.
Before the inauguration, presidents-elect assemble their transition teams in order to prepare for a smooth transfer of power leading up to the new president’s inauguration. Trump’s is headed by Governor Chris Christie.
During the next two months, Trump will be choosing new executive personnel, including those who will fill new cabinet positions and department and agency heads.
The purpose of the meeting today was for the outgoing president to confer with the president-elect on policy matters, and probably for Obama to offer Trump some words of advice on not gutting the policies he enacted by executive order.
But at the core of the meeting is the start a smooth transition between presidents and the continuity of operations that have significant national interests.
President Obama has said that despite the many differences between him and outgoing President Bush, the Bush Administration worked hard to make sure the new administration was ready to conduct the business of the United States without interruption. And we can assume that President Obama will do the same for the Trump Administration.
But transitions have not always been so easy.
The transition between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in 2000 was marred by accusations of “damage, theft, vandalism and pranks,” including the infamous story of the removal of the W key from computer keyboards. The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated the cost of the outgoing staffers’ “pranks” to U.S. taxpayers at $13,000 to $14,000.
When the Clintons left the White House, they were accused of taking gifts meant for the White House, as gifts from heads of state and others are meant for the people, not the caretakers. The Clintons denied the accusations, but agreed to pay more than $85,000 for gifts given to the first family “to eliminate even the slightest question” of impropriety.
The transition between Bush and Obama was considered seamless, with Bush granting Obama’s request to ask Congress to release $350 billion of bank bailout funds.
At the start of his inaugural speech, Obama praised Bush “for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition”.
In his victory speech early Wednesday morning, Trump vowed to “bind the wounds of division” after an acrimonious election contest, and to be “president for all Americans”. One subject the president and president elect may discuss is that in cities across the U.S., protesters have taken to the streets with anti-Trump chants and banners, many crying “Not my president.”
The BBC reports:
- In New York, thousands marched on Trump Tower, attacking his policies on immigration, gay rights and reproductive rights. Fifteen people were arrested, the New York Times reported
- Protests were largely peaceful but in Oakland, California, some demonstrators smashed shop windows and threw missiles at riot police, who reportedly responded with tear gas
- A mass anti-Trump rally shut down the key 101 freeway in Los Angeles
In Chicago, crowds blocked the entrance to Trump Tower, chanting: “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascists USA”
In Portland, Oregon, demonstrators temporarily closed an interstate highway In Washington DC, protesters held a candlelit vigil. Organiser Ben Wikler told the crowd: “We are here because in these darkest moments, we are not alone”
Demonstrations also took place in Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, among other cities.
Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of Congress, creating an easier path for Trump to reverse key Obama initiatives like his Affordable Care Act, a fact not lost on the President.
The president-elect has said his immediate priorities will be restoring the country’s infrastructure and doubling its economic growth. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said: “Donald Trump is taking this very seriously,” adding that the business mogul’s deal-making ability would enable him to quickly “make things happen for the American people.