Journalists to Obama: Just How 'Fearful' Are You About Trump?

On Wednesday, Barack Obama conducted his final press conference as president and journalists demanded accountability... from his Republican successor. While just one question was asked about Obama’s decision to pardon Chelsea Manning, there were five queries worrying about what Donald Trump will do when he’s in charge. 

After lauding the President’s support of gay rights, Chris Johnson of The Blade fretted, “ How do you think LGBT rights will rank in terms of your accomplishments and your legacy? And how confident are you that progress will endure and continue under the President-elect?” 

Nadia Bilbassy of Al Arabiya panicked, “Mr. Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem. He appointed an ambassador that doesn't believe in a two state solution. How worried are you about the U.S. leadership in the Arab world and beyond as an honest broker?” 

Janet Rodriguez of Univision hyperventilated, “Are you fearful for the status of those dreamers, the future of the young immigrants and all immigrants in this country with the new administration?” 

April Ryan of American Urban Radio lectured, “Under your watch, people have said you expanded the rubber band of inclusion and with the election and the incoming administration, people are saying that rubber band has recoiled and is maybe even broken.” 

Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times sympathized: 

CHRISTI PARSONS: I have a personal question for you, because I know how much you like this. The First Lady put the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms in a speech that resonated across the country. And she really spoke to concerns of a lot of women, LGBT folks, people of other color, many others. And so, I wonder now how you and the First Lady are talks to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them? 

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The subject of the commuting of Manning sentence came up just once: 

JEFF MASON (Reuters): Are you concerned, Mr. President, that commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence will send a message that leaking classified material will not generate a tough sentence to groups like WikiLeaks? How do you reconcile that in light of WikiLeaks' connection to Russian hacking in last year's election? 

Despite Obama’s evasive answer, there was no follow up by any of the journalists in the room. 

In contrast, on January 12, 2009, George W. Bush was asked, “What is the single biggest mistake that you may have made?” Chuck Todd demanded, “You think the Republican Party needs to be more inclusive. Who needs to hear that message inside the Republican Party?” 

Unsurprisingly, no one asked Obama about his biggest mistake or the need for inclusion in the wake of the Democratic Party’s 2016 loss. (The closest to that kind of question came when Kevin Corke of Fox News wondered, “There are more than five dozen Democrats that are going to boycott the inauguration of the incoming president. Do you support that?”) 

A transcript of the questions from Obama’s final press conference is below: 

Final Obama press conference
1/18/17

2:26
    
[Opening statement.]

BARACK OBAMA: I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not mean I have enjoyed every story you have filed, but that's the point of this relationship. You're not supposed to be sycophants, you're supposed to be skeptics. You're supposed to ask me tough questions. You're not supposed to be complimentary, but you're supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power and make sure we are accountable to the people who sent us here. And you have done that. 

...

2:29

JEFF MASON (Reuters): Are you concerned, Mr. President, that commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence will send a message that we can classify material will not generate a tough sentence to groups like WikiLeaks? How do you reconcile that in light of WikiLeaks' connection to Russian hacking in last year's election? And related to that, Julian Assange has now offered to come to the United States, are you seeking that and would he be charged or arrested if he came here? 

...

2:35

MARGARET BRENNAN: (CBS): Mr. President, thank you. The President-elect has said that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if they substantially reduced their nuclear stockpile. Given your own efforts at arms control, do you think that's an effective strategy, knowing this office and Mr. Trump, how would you advise his advisers to help him be effective when he deals with Vladimir Putin? And given your actions recently on Russia, do you think those sanctions should be viewed as leverage? 

2:41

KEVIN CORKE (Fox News): You have been a strong supporter of the idea of a peaceful transfer of power. Demonstrated not terribly far from here, the Rose Garden. Even as you and I speak, there are more than five dozen Democrats that are going to boycott the inauguration of the incoming president. Do you support that? And what message would you send to Democrats to better demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power? And if I could follow, I want to ask you about your conversations with the President-elect previously, and without getting into too much of the personal side of it, I'm just curious, were you able to use that opportunity to convince him to take a fresh look at some of the important ideas that you will leave this office with, maintaining some semblance of the Affordable Care Act, some idea of keeping dreamers here in the country without fear of deportation? Were you able to use personal stories to try to convince him? And how successful were you? 

...

2:46

JANET RODRIGUEZ (Univision): You have said you would come back for the dreamers. You said that a couple of weeks ago. Are you fearful for the status of those dreamers, the future of the young immigrants and all immigrants in this country with the new administration? And what did you mean when you said you would come back? Would you love Congress? Maybe explore the political arena again? And if I may ask you a second question, why did you take action on dry foot/wet foot a week ago? 

...

2:53

NADIA BILBASSY (Al Arabiya):  Thank you, sir. I appreciate the opportunity and I want to wish your new family the best of luck in the future. 

OBAMA: Thank you. 

BILBASSY: Mr. President, you have been criticized and even personally attacked for the U.N. Security Council Resolution that concerned [sic] Israeli settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace. Mr. Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem. He appointed an ambassador that doesn’t believe in a two state solution. How worried are you about the U.S. leadership in the Arab world and beyond as an honest broker? Will this ignite a third Intifada? Will this even protected Israel? And in retrospect, do you think you should have held Israel more accountable, like President Bush Sr .did? 

...

3:00

CHRIS JOHNSON (The Blade): On LGBT rights, ou've seen a lot of achievements over the past eight years, including signing hate crimes legislation, Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, marriage equality nationwide and ensuring trans people feel respected. How do you think LGBT will rank in terms of your accomplishments and your legacy? And how confident are you that progress will endure and continue under the President-elect? 

3:05

APRIL RYAN (American Urban Radio): Long before today you've been considered a rights president. Under your watch, people have said you expanded the rubber band of inclusion and with the election and the incoming administration, people are saying that rubber band has recoiled and is maybe even broken. I'm taking back to a time on Air Force One going to Selma, Alabama, you said your job was to close the gaps that remain . With that, what gaps still remain with rights on the table? Also, what part will you play in fixing those gaps after —  in your new life? And lastly, you are the first black president. Do you expect this country will see this again? 

...

3:16

CHRISTI PARSONS (L.A. Times): Well, thank you, Mr. President. It has been an honor. 

OBAMA: Thank you. 

PARSONS: I have a personal question for you, because I know how much you like this. The First Lady put the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms in a speech that resonated across the country. And she really spoke to concerns of a lot of women, LGBT folks, people of other color, many others. And so, I wonder now how you and the First Lady are talks to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them?

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Obama transition Trump transition Reuters Univision Los Angeles Times Sports White House Press Briefing Christi Parsons April Ryan Barack Obama Donald Trump
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