Obama Says He Reserves Right to Confront Trump on Core Questions

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President Barack Obama speaks on Nov. 20, 2016, in Lima.

Photographer: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
  • Outgoing president suggests he may remain involved in politics
  • Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, never criticized him

President Barack Obama said he intends to give President-elect Donald Trump space to lead the U.S. and set his own agenda but is reserving the right to reinsert himself into the public debate if he thinks core American values are at stake.

“As an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle, but go to core questions about our values and ideals, and if I think it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, then I’ll examine it when it comes,” Obama said at a news conference in Lima, Peru, after a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.

If Obama remains involved in the political sphere, it would mark a departure from his recent predecessors. Republican George W. Bush has never commented on his successor’s policies. Democrat Bill Clinton was equally silent on Bush after leaving the White House, though he actively campaigned for his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her bids for the White House.

Obama leaves office in January. He faces extraordinary pressure from fellow Democrats, many of whom are protesting Trump’s election and are concerned that his Republican successor will implement promises from his campaign to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, bar immigration from Muslim countries and encourage aggressive policing and intelligence activities.

“President Bush could not have been more gracious to me when I came in,” Obama said. “My intention is to certainly for the next two months, just finish my job and then after that to take Michelle on vacation, get some rest, spend time with my girls and do some writing, do some thinking.”

“I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance,” Obama said at the conclusion of what is likely his last foreign trip as president.

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