- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2016

President Obama predicted Monday that President-elect Donald Trump won’t revoke many of Mr. Obama’s top initiatives such as Obamacare and the Iranian nuclear deal, in part because Mr. Trump isn’t “ideological.”

The president said Mr. Trump will soon find out that governing is “the hard part,” and he pleaded publicly with the president-elect not to follow through on a campaign promise to repeal an Obama program that has protected young illegal immigrants from deportation.

In a White House press conference, Mr. Obama also said opponents of Mr. Trump who have taken to the streets in protest over his election need to adjust to the “new reality” of the Republican taking over the White House.

“The people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next president,” Mr. Obama said. “Those who didn’t vote for him have to recognize that’s how democracy works, that’s how the system operates.”

The president said he has advised the president-elect to make public efforts to bring the country together after the hard-fought and often-bitter campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“I emphasized to him that in this hotly contested election, gestures matter,” Mr. Obama said. “How he reaches out to groups that may not have supported him those are the kinds of things that can set a tone that will help move things forward.”

The hourlong session with reporters was Mr. Obama’s first extended comment on the election following his meeting in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump last week.

Several times during the news conference, Mr. Obama offered grudging admiration for the victory that Mr. Trump achieved last week. After predicting for more than a year that Mr. Trump couldn’t win, the president called it “one of the biggest political upsets in history.”

“What’s clear is that he was able to tap into, yes, the anxieties, but also the enthusiasm of his voters in a way that was impressive,” Mr. Obama said. “And I said so to him because I think that, to the extent that there were a lot of folks who missed the Trump phenomenon, I think that connection that he was able to make with his supporters, that was impervious to events that might have sunk another candidate. That’s powerful stuff.”

Later, in a conference call with Democratic grass-roots activists, Mr. Obama sympathized with their deep disappointment at Mrs. Clinton’s loss.

“Your president feels your pain on this one,” Mr. Obama told them. “And in some ways it feels worse because, for a lot of us, I think we didn’t see it coming.”

But Mr. Obama urged Democrats to stop moping, saying he would give them “a week and a half to get over it.”

“The majority of the American people believe in a diverse, tolerant, optimistic, dynamic, inclusive vision,” Mr. Obama said. “So don’t suddenly veer off into isolation. You’ve got another few days to feel bad, and then we’ve got to get busy.”

The president’s public press conference came just before he departed Washington on his final foreign trip, and he also forecast that Mr. Trump won’t alter significantly long-standing U.S. commitments and alliances overseas.

Mr. Obama revealed more details of his only meeting with Mr. Trump to date, saying the president-elect assured him of his desire to maintain “core strategic relationships” abroad, a message Mr. Obama said he will deliver to allies in Europe.

“One of the most important functions I can serve at this stage during this trip is to let them know that there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America’s commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship and a recognition that those alliances aren’t just good for Europe,” Mr. Obama said. “They are good for the United States, and they are vital for the world.”

During the campaign Mr. Trump questioned whether he would continue the U.S. commitment to NATO members who didn’t pay their fair share to the alliance, raising concerns, especially in Eastern Europe, which is confronting renewed Russian aggression.

Mr. Trump also promised voters that he would undo many of Mr. Obama’s signature initiatives, from Obamacare to the Paris climate change agreement to reduce global carbon emissions to the nuclear deal with Tehran. On Monday Mr. Obama expressed the hopeful view that the president-elect won’t wield a partisan ax against his biggest initiatives, many of which were implemented by executive action and could be undone the same way.

“He is coming to this office with fewer set hard-and-fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents might be arriving with,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t think he is ideological. I think, ultimately, he is pragmatic in that way. And that can serve him well as long as he has got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction.”

The president also predicted that Mr. Trump will back off some of his campaign promises because he’ll find out that Mr. Obama’s initiatives are working, and that unraveling them would be more difficult than the president-elect imagined.

“I think on a lot of issues what you’re going to see is now comes the hard part. Now is governance,” Mr. Obama said.

Addressing Mr. Trump’s earlier pledge to repeal Obamacare, the president asked, “Now suddenly you are in charge and you are going to repeal it. OK, well, what happens to those 20 million people who have health insurance? Are you going to just kick them off and suddenly they don’t have health insurance?”

Since his election, Mr. Trump has said he would consider keeping some parts of the health care law, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26.

On the Iranian deal, which Mr. Trump wants to renegotiate, Mr. Obama warned that the issue is “a good example of the gap between some of the rhetoric in this town, not unique to the president elect, and the reality.”

“To unravel a deal that’s working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain, particularly if the alternative were to have them free from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a weapon,” the president said.

Mr. Obama also made a remarkable plea directed at Mr. Trump and his team to ditch his campaign pledge to kill Mr. Obama’s deferred-deportation protections for nearly 750,000 young illegal immigrants. The children are known as “Dreamers.”

“I will urge the president-elect and the incoming administration to think long and hard before they are endangering the status of what, for all practical purposes, are American kids,” Mr. Obama said. “I mean, these are kids who were brought here by their parents. They did nothing wrong. They have gone to school. They have pledged allegiance to the flag. Some of them joined the military. They’ve enrolled in school. By definition, if they are part of this program, they are solid, wonderful young people of good character. And it is my strong belief that the majority of the American people would not want to see suddenly those kids have to start hiding again. And that’s something that I will encourage the president-elect to look at.”

Mr. Obama’s overall message to the incoming president was that his administration has improved America over the past eight years, and that Mr. Trump shouldn’t mess with success.

“We are going to be able to present to the incoming administration a country that is stronger,” Mr. Obama said, noting years of job growth, and asserting that the government is working “more efficiently.”

“I think the president-elect rightly would expect that he is judged on whether we improve from that baseline and on those metrics or [if] things get worse,” Mr. Obama said. “And if things get worse, then the American people will figure that out pretty quick. And if things get better, then more power to him. And I will be the first to congratulate him.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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