President-elect Donald Trump should have opened his epic 90-minute meeting with with President Obama Thursday with two simple words:
President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
But he didn’t.
Obama and Trump shook hands inside the White House and discussed a civil transfer of power two days after a racially divided nation witnessed Trump’s historic defeat of Hillary Clinton.
The president, a former community organizer, and Trump, a current billionaire blowhard, finally met face-to-face in the Oval Office — an improbable sit-down that no one saw coming 16 months ago.
These two men – who met Thursday for the first time — couldn’t be more different: Obama is tolerant; Trump is often intolerable. Obama is intellectual and cerebral. Trump doesn’t have a clue about leading – or healing — a nation.
This was clearly not the meeting Obama had envisioned, but it’s the meeting the president got. Obama campaigned vigorously for Clinton; he portrayed Trump correctly as an unbalanced tweet-obsessed fanatic who is unfit to be the nation’s commander-in-chief, a man who is long on rhetoric and short on substance.
And Obama will probably never forget that Trump led the so-called “birther” movement which questioned Obama’s citizenship, claiming that Obama was not born in the United States and was therefore disqualified for holding the office of president.
Trump’s attempt to discredit Obama in such a mean-spirited personal way was blatantly racist, the only logical interpretation for Trump’s lunacy. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that hate groups in the U.S. have increased since Obama was elected president and Trump, who fostered an atmosphere of racial hatred, was endorsed by the KKK.
For months, Trump continued to disrespect the nation’s first Black president at every opportunity and hounded Obama, not about his legislative agenda, but about his lineage. For his constant contempt, Trump owes Obama a sincere apology.
But now Trump is poised to become president on Jan. 20 and take Obama’s place in the Oval Office. His immediate plan – however misguided and dangerous — is to dismantle many of Obama’s signature policies, which includes repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which could adversely impact 20 million Americans.
But Obama, the consummate statesman, has vowed to make the shift of power as seamless as possible for Trump.
“My No. 1 priority in the next two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful,” Obama said after his meeting with Trump.
Obama told Trump: “If you succeed, the country succeeds,” as the two men sat in front of the fireplace in the Oval Office.
Trump thanked Obama for the meeting, which he said had originally been scheduled for 10-15 minutes but lasted and hour and a half, with Trump saying it could have gone on much longer.
“Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you and I look forward to being with you many, many more times,” Trump said. He called Obama a “very good man.”
But what can we expect from Trump? A rookie politician who promises to be a leader for all Americans? Or the crass loudmouth who often insulted people of color on the campaign trail?
At some point, Trump will begin to methodically derail Obama’s legacy. On immigration, for example, Trump said he overturn Obama’s executive order to grant permits to millions of undocumented immigrants.
But now, after nearly two years of Trump proudly pushing back against political correctness – and singling out Hispanics and African-Americans as targets– Republicans are asking the millions of Americans who voted for Clinton to forgive Trump and give the incoming commander-in-chief a chance to succeed.
That’s certainly possible – but not today.