Obama called the race for the White House an "intramural scrimmage," where "we’re actually all on one team."
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama congratulated President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday and pledged that his staff would work to ensure a smooth transition into the Republican administration.
“It’s no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” Obama said from the White House Rose Garden, adding that he will work with Trump just as former President George W. Bush did with him.
“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” Obama said, looking and sounding optimistic in his first remarks since Trump’s stunning Tuesday night victory.
It’s not that Obama suddenly agrees with Trump, or has changed his mind about the President-elect being unfit and unqualified for the role, but that American voters have chosen, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a news briefing.
“The president doesn’t get to choose his successor, the American people do. And, his responsibility to the American people, and his responsibility to this democracy supersedes his own personal views – even on really important issues,” Earnest said.
Obama called the race for the White House an “intramural scrimmage,” where “we’re actually all on one team.”
“To the young people who got into politics for the first time, and may be disappointed by the results, I just want you to know, you have to stay encouraged. Don’t get cynical,” Obama said.
“Sometimes you lose an argument. Sometimes you lose an election. The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag, and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back.”
Earnest described Trump’s address early Wednesday morning, after the election had been called in his favor, “toned” and suggestive that “certain basic principles of our democracy are likely to be upheld” in a Trump White House.
Obama said that he could “not be prouder” of Clinton. “She has lived an extraordinary life of public service,” he said, listing off the offices she’s held.
Clinton won the popular vote by more than 200,000 ballots but lost the election, garnering 232 of the 538 electoral votes as of Wednesday night.
“Her candidacy and nomination was historic and sends a message to our daughters all across the country that they can achieve at the highest levels of politics,” Obama said. “And I am absolutely confident that she and [former] President [Bill] Clinton will continue to do great work for people here in the United States and all around the world.”
Earnest said the Obama administration remains committed to implementing the Paris agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, both of which Trump has criticized.
Earnest said that the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has promised to repeal, has withstood assaults from Republicans in the past and noted that Republicans still don’t have the needed 60 votes in the Senate to act unilaterally.
Obama and Trump are set to meet at the White House Thursday to begin conversations about the transition of power, their first ever face-to-face interaction. Obama has made his daily presidential briefings and other intelligence summaries available to Trump, Earnest said, just as Bush did for Obama.