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Conversation with President Donald Trump ‘Excellent’ and ‘Wide-Ranging’ : Barack Obama

The President-elect Donald Trump and his wife were invited by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to visit the White House

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President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump at the White House, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo: J. Oni / VOA)

November 11, 2016: Just two days after his stunning election victory, President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, visited the White House, invited by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

No press was allowed to film their arrival Thursday, but the president and the president-elect gave brief statements to reporters in the Oval Office after the meeting.

Despite a long history of animosity between Obama and Trump, both were gracious.

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“I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-elect Trump,” Obama said. “It was wide-ranging. We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up the White House; we talked about foreign policy, we talked about domestic policy, and, as I said last night, my number one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that insures our president-elect is successful.”

Trump told reporters the meeting was supposed to last about ten minutes but lasted 90, and it could have gone on even longer.

“I look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel,” he said. “He explained some of the difficulties and the high-flying assets and some of the wonderful things that have been achieved. Mr. President, it was wonderful meeting with you and I look forward to meeting with you many more times in the future.”

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The White House said Obama officials are making sure that Trump and his yet-to-be-named key officials are “prepared from day one to protect our national security.” U.S. intelligence and defense officials are starting to give Trump daily briefings on threats to the country’s security and overseas military operations.

In addition, the Obama administration plans to host two exercises involving several government agencies to help familiarize Trump officials with how the government responds to domestic emergencies, whether terrorist attacks or such natural disasters as violent tornadoes and hurricanes.

‘Less awkward’ than expected

After the meeting, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if the meeting was awkward.

“The meeting might have been a little less awkward than some might have expected,” he said.

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Trump said it was the first time the two men have met personally.

The president campaigned exceptionally hard for his former secretary of state and fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. Obama often derided Trump, the blunt-spoken real estate mogul who has never held elected office, as unfit to lead the country.

Meanwhile, Trump for years questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S. before recently acknowledging his citizenship. He says he plans to undermine key Obama policies, including the health care reforms, environmental regulations, protection of some immigrants from deportation, and the Iran nuclear deal.

FILE - Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald trump and his wife Melania.
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald trump and his wife Melania. VOA

FILE – Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald trump and his wife Melania.

Rooting for success

Despite the bitter campaign, Obama pledged Wednesday to cooperate with Trump’s takeover.

“It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” Obama said. “But remember, eight years ago, President [George W.] Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition.”

Obama said he is rooting for Trump’s success and has ordered the White House team “to work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect.”

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Secretary of State John Kerry cited the tradition of peaceful changes in leadership as he congratulated Trump on Thursday and wished him well for the “enormous challenges that he will undertake.”

“With a transition like this, the issues that we face don’t go away,” Kerry said during a visit to New Zealand. “The values with which we face them are the same values the day after the election that they were the day before.”

Meeting with Congressional leaders

While in Washington, Trump also met with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaders of the Republican majorities in each chamber, about their legislative plans. Both gave tepid support to Trump during the election, but have vowed to work in concert with him to pass the party’s agenda.

The most prominent Republican effort will be to unwind and replace the Affordable Care Act, the outgoing president’s health care program, known as Obamacare, that helped 20 million people get health insurance.

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First lady, tour and tea

Earnest said first lady Michelle Obama showed future first lady Melania Trump the private quarters, and they had tea. He said they talked about the special challenges of raising children in the White House.

The Obamas have raised their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, in the White House. Donald and Melania Trump have a 10-year-old son, Barron, who will likely grow up in the White House, as well. (VOA)

Next Story

Economy to Overcome Other Issues in 2020, says Trump

President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger. 

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President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Keep America Great Rally at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. VOA

“It’s the economy, stupid” has been a catchphrase of U.S. presidential politics since the 1992 campaign, when Bill Clinton unseated incumbent George H.W. Bush. Nearly three decades later, U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger.

Trump — in tweets, at political rallies and in remarks to reporters — constantly emphasizes the performance of the U.S. economy, stock market surges, low unemployment rates and his tax cuts to boast he is doing a great job as president.

Economists and political analysts are divided on whether that message will enable the incumbent to stay in office beyond January 2021.

Culture war, partisan split

Ever since Clinton, “we’ve all kind of assumed that should be true. And I think for the most part, it is,” said Ryan McMaken, senior editor and economist at the Mises Institute, a politics and economics research group in Alabama. He cautioned, though, that Trump finds himself on one side of a culture war that his predecessors did not have to confront, as well as a deep partisan divide on consumer confidence.

Walmart Supercentre
Balo Balogun labels items in preparation for a holiday sale at a Walmart Supercenter, in Las Vegas. Black Friday once again kicks off the start of the holiday shopping season. But it will be the shortest season since 2013 because of Thanksgiving falling on the fourth Thursday in November, the latest possible date it can be. VOA

Policy analyst James Pethokoukis at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research group, also is cautious about the economy prevailing over all other issues.

“Just having a strong economy is not going to guarantee you re-election,” he said. “People often point back to the 2000 election, which occurred after a decade of tremendous economic growth any way you want to measure it — gross domestic product, jobs and wage growth. And yet, [Clinton’s vice president] Al Gore still lost that election to George W. Bush.”

McMaken questioned whether voters in key swing states — such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio — who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 were experiencing enough of the touted economic performance to vote again for the president.

Overall, however, “it’s not a bad economy to run on if you’re Donald Trump,” said Pethokoukis.

Trump, said to have concerns about the direction of the economy ahead of next November’s election, will likely push for more tax cuts, passage of a renegotiated North American trade pact and continued pressure on the country’s central banking system, the Federal Reserve, to lower interest rates.

A LB Steel LLC's employee manufactures a component
A LB Steel LLC’s employee manufactures a component for new Amtrak Acela trains built in partnership with Alstom in Harvey, Illinois, U.S. VOA

Trouble ahead?

There are rumblings of economic storm clouds on the horizon. The impact can be seen in Trump’s trade war with China, which has hurt U.S. farmers and raised prices for consumer goods. It’s also reflected in the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index, an underperforming U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index and a ballooning record national debt, in addition to the worrying level of money owed to creditors by middle-class Americans.

“We’ve actually been in a sort of a manufacturing recession, seen a shrinkage of factory jobs, the exact kinds of jobs that I’m sure that people voting for the president thought would be a lot better now,” said Pethokoukis.

So far, none of this has prompted a major stock market correction.

“There seems to be a lot of adaptations in the markets to Trump’s America. That may work to his advantage,” said the Mises Institute’s McMaken.

Analysts note a lack of emphasis on economic platforms so far by the leading Democratic U.S. presidential candidates seeking to oust Trump next year.

But such a platform is likely to be touted when the opposition party holds its convention next July in Milwaukee and picks its campaign ticket. Pethokoukis suggested the Democratic Party should devise a plan with a goal to boost American worker productivity, which has flatlined for years.

The great divide

McMaken pointed out that the widening chasm between the well-off and those struggling economically in the United States makes Trump vulnerable — something emphasized by left-leaning Democratic presidential contenders such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Donald Trump says the economy isn't doing well
Tents and tarps erected by homeless people are shown along sidewalks and streets in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. VOA

“On the ground level, I would say just in general, the economy isn’t doing as well,” concluded McMaken.

ALSO READ: Greed For Power May Demolish The Democracy

Amid an impeachment drive by the Democrats, Trump is repeatedly hammering on a specific message to those questioning his suitability for office while being impressed with the performance of their pension accounts during his presidency.

“Love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me,” Trump said at a rally in New Hampshire in August, warning that Americans’ investments portfolios would go “down the tubes” if he lost next year’s election. (VOA)