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Obama and Trump cap tempestuous transition

  • Published at 11:05 pm January 8th, 2017
Obama and Trump cap tempestuous transition
After vowing a smooth transition, President Barack Obama and Donald Trump are presiding over one of the most tumultuous transfers of power in US history. Assassinations notwithstanding, American presidential transitions have generally been peaceful affairs. But that doesn’t mean they have been smooth. Andrew Johnson was effectively barred from attending Ulysses Grant’s swearing in. Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt did not speak to each other on inauguration day. Bill Clinton’s staff removed the “W” keys from dozens of White House keyboards before George W. Bush moved in. But few transitions have been as tempestuous as Obama’s passing of the baton to Trump. In the span of a few weeks, the president-elect has picked fights with Mexico, China, Toyota, Lockheed Martin, the media, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of “Hamilton.” He has also taken aim at Obama personally. “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks.Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - Not!” Trump tweeted in late December. Trump infuriated the White House by offering a running commentary on Obama’s final weeks, criticizing his decision not to veto a UN resolution on Israeli settlements and the transfer of prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay prison.

Red tide

But it is the scandal over Russian involvement in the election that has put Obama and Trump most sharply at odds. The White House imposed sanctions on Moscow and released a steady drip of evidence that the Kremlin tried to put its hand on the electoral scale, culminating in an intelligence report that was shocking in its bluntness. “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the joint CIA, NSA and FBI report read. Fearing that assessment will forever put an asterisk by his historic victory, Trump has lashed out at US intelligence and appeared to sided with Russia in a way that is unthinkable for the White House. Team Obama’s comments about Trump have become increasingly pointed. In a farewell address, Michelle Obama urged young Americans not to fear the future but fight for it. In an interview with his former aide David Axelrod, President Obama himself went as far as suggesting that he could have beaten Trump in the election were he allowed to run for a third term — a remark the president knew would smart. Obama may be right. His approval rating is around 55% according to Gallup, putting him in the league of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan as they departed. Trump’s approval rating is 43%, according to the Real Clear Politics average, notably low for someone who just won an election. But that will be of little comfort to Obama with his signature policies – from curbing emissions to the nuclear deal with Iran – in such grave danger.
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