Thursday, 19 January 2017

A Presidency Ends: Farewells to Barack Obama

The Trump Presidency

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Farewells to Barack Obama
President Obama on Wednesday at his final White House news conference. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Millions of Americans will surely miss President Obama. We will miss the hope he inspires, and the model of a family that he and Michelle, Malia and Sasha provide.

I will miss his grace under pressure, his willingness to make decisions based on evidence, his compassion for all — even those who disagree with him. I will miss his eloquence, his dedication and work ethic. No better example can be found than his herculean efforts to keep his successor from doing grave harm to the country Mr. Obama loves.

Most of all, though, I will miss his incredible ability to put aside personal emotions and focus on the goal and the best way to get there.

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Obama pens farewell letter to Americans

It is a tradition for the sitting president to leave a letter to his successor in the Oval Office, but President Barack Obama took the time on his final full day in office to pen a letter to the American populace.
"You made me a better President, and you made me a better man,"
In the letter posted on Facebook, he wrote of meeting all types of citizens during his eight years in office, showing him grace, community, strength, and more.

"I've seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I've seen our future unfolding," he wrote.

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Thank God for Barack Obama (he cleared the field for Donald Trump)

As America watches Donald Trump take the presidential oath on Friday, it’ll be worth taking a moment to think about what the future will show was a truly providential moment in our history: the presidency of Barack Obama.

It’s time to realize that the eight years of Obama were a gift that kept on giving, one that has cleared the field for Trump in ways we can’t see.

Why? Because in his eight years in office, Obama managed to expose the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism. He revealed once and for all that it’s an ideology based on a flawed view of reality and of human nature, and that it has been a destructive force in our country going back to the New Deal, and going forward to ObamaCare.

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A look at Obama's legacy: 9 ways he left his mark
He made friends and he made enemies. And like every other man who has held the office, he made history

Barack Obama, who got into politics as a community organizer, will leave the White House next week, eight years after he swept into power promising “Hope and Change.” What he delivered was, by his own measure, not what he had hoped.

On the other hand, the first African American president had some victories. One in particular,  the Affordable Care Act, was historic in scope, changing the health care landscape across the country.

His biggest achievement as president, however, has become a symbol of what appears to be one of his biggest fears – the disappearance of his legacy.
  • Economy
  • Race
  • Immigration
  • LGBT strides
  • Peace
  • Health Care
  • Pop culture
  • Politics
  • Social media

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A legacy of O

When he ran for President, Barack Obama promoted "we are not red states or blue states, but the United States." He didn’t mean it.

Radicalized by his prolific communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis, Barry (Soetero) enjoyed his pot-smoking “choom gang” in high school, and then regularly attended socialist conferences while in college.

He became a community organizer in Chicago and close friend of the radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, his philosophical and political influencers. Obama’s "Dreams from My Father" were calculations against the American Dream.

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Was Barack Obama a transformative president?

When Donald Trump takes the oath of office on Friday, the Republican takeover of Washington will be complete – signaling a sharp departure from eight years of President Obama.

In many ways, the Trump era has already launched. The new Congress has begun the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Legislators are preparing to roll back a raft of federal regulations on such areas as overtime pay and funding for Planned Parenthood. Nominees for the incoming cabinet are poised for confirmation, despite some tough questioning from senators.

Conservatives are joyful, liberals despondent. But Obama’s domestic legacy runs deep, and will be more difficult to uproot than both sides seem to believe, analysts say. Popular elements of the ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare, may well survive. Ditto changes to the tax code that have helped low-income Americans. On immigration, both Mr. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have suggested law-abiding “dreamers” won’t be deported.

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Barack Obama emotionally reflects on highs and lows of his presidency

With less than a week left before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, emotions are running high for the Obama family.

As President Barack Obama lives out the final days of his second term, he's reflecting on the highs and lows, the groundbreaking accomplishments and the unbearable disappointments he faced during his time in office.

Grab your tissues, everyone. And prepare to take a look back at Obama's legacy.

related: 10 inspiring moments from Barack Obama's presidency in GIFs

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Obama’s final message sounded remarkably like his first
US President Barack Obama walks away at the end of his final press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2017. US President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would take a break from politics upon leaving office, but would not hesitate to speak up if America's "core values" are questioned, citing concerns about discrimination and freedom of the press. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama walked off the stage Wednesday sounding remarkably like the political newcomer who burst onto the political scene 13 years ago.

That Obama, a neophyte state senator from Illinois, was striking mostly for his faith in America’s institutions, its founding documents and its people.

“Hope in the face of difficulty,” he preached in a speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. “Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope . . . a belief that there are better days ahead.”

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'I believe in the American people:' Obama upbeat in last news conference
In his final news conference President Barack Obama wished former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush well after news that both were hospitalized. Obama also touted the need for a free press. (Jan. 18) AP

President Obama brimmed with optimism in an upbeat final news conference Wednesday, championing America's diversity and encouraging citizens to do more to advance voting rights.

"I believe in this country. I believe in the American people," Obama said in a warm farewell to reporters. "I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there's evil in the world. But I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we're true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.

"That's what this presidency has tried to be about," he said.

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Barack Obama tells media in final news conference: 'America needs you, and our democracy needs you'

There was little surprise that a number of the White House Press Corps applauded as Barack Obama completed his final news conference.

He had started thanking the media for its work, and ended by declaring them to be a vital part of the democratic process, and said that “having you in this building has helped this place work better”.

He added: “That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that’s the point of this relationship... 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.”

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Barack Obama's final press conference pep talk: 'I think we're going to be OK'

In the end, it was a father speaking with pride about his daughters and why they give him hope for the future.

The final question put by a journalist to Barack Obama during his presidency merged the political with the personal. Indeed, the two have often been impossible to separate during his eight years in office.

So how, Obama was asked at his last press conference on Wednesday, did Malia, 18, and 15-year-old Sasha react to Trump’s victory in the presidential election? His answer revealed something about his own attitude and, perhaps, his parting advice to an uncertain nation and world.

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Barack Obama’s final press conference as president
President Obama gave his final presidential press conference on Wednesday afternoon. You can watch it above

With Donald Trump set to be sworn in as president in just two days, Obama used this press conference to reflect on his two terms in office, as well as looking forward to challenges his successor might face.

Obama was asked about his decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence, relations with Russia, Democrats boycotting the inauguration, and which issues could spur him to become actively engaged in politics again.

On that last topic, he said he would give the incoming president some space to handle the normal “ebb and flow” of political issues, but:
“There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake. I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category, explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least I would put in that category, efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else.”
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Obama’s parting message is a warning for Donald Trump
His memo to Trump: If you do any of these things, I won’t stay silent

President Barack Obama has not been, at least in public, freaking out about the election of Donald Trump. If anything, his insistence on giving the president-elect a chance has frustrated many of Obama’s own supporters, who were hoping to see a validation from the president that (as the catchphrase has gone) “this is not normal.”

They just got that moment. Kind of. During his last press conference Wednesday afternoon, Obama sent a message to “Democrats and progressives.” He urged them to distinguish between “the normal back-and-forth, ebb-and-flow of policy” on issues like whether taxes should go up or down and what climate policy would be, and conflicts that are, well, not normal:
But there’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake. I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category, explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least I would put in that category, efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else. When they love this country, they are our kids, friends, and classmates, and are now entering into community colleges and in some places serving in our military.
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President Barack Obama's Final Press Conference Live Blog: Everything That Happened

As Obama announced it was time for the final question of the press conference, the reporters in the briefing room collectively sighed. He was then asked about Malia and Sasha and the girls' reaction to Trump's shocking election over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

"Man, my daughters are something," he gushed. "They just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up. So these days, when we talk, we talk as parent to child but also we learn from them. I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted [to Trump's election]. They were disappointed."

"We've tried to teach them hope," Obama continued. "The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world. You get knocked down, you get up, you brush yourself off and you get back to work, and that tended to be their attitude. Neither of them intend to pursue a future of politics. In that, too, I think their mother's influence shows. But both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help but be patriotic, to love this country deeply, to see that it's flawed but to see that they have responsibilities to fix it."

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Obama's final contrast to Trump
President Barack Obama was reflective by the end of his final press conference with reporters, looking out at the packed room one last time. | AP Photo

He was sober and cautious, refusing to take several servings of bait offered up to him. He insisted on the importance of principles and norms. He asked for questions from an array of reporters, including a few critics. And he spoke sentimentally about his wife and daughters.

President Barack Obama presented a carefully constructed parting image for the American public on Wednesday at his final press conference and final public event in office.

It was a performance that added to the long list of contrasts between the 44th and 45th presidents -- one that will make even more jarring the shift that’s happening at noon on Friday in front of the Capitol.

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Obama's biggest advice for Trump: listen

In his final press conference as U.S. president, Barack Obama offered some personal advice for President-elect Donald Trump: listen to everyone, even if you disagree with them.

“If you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you’re only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, and if you don’t create a process that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions… that’s when you start making mistakes,” Obama said Wednesday.

“Reality has a way of biting back if you’re not paying attention to it.”

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Obama is leaving office on an anti-privacy note — and Donald Trump is coming in the same way

Following the victory of President-elect Donald Trump, many commentators (including yours truly) argued that his win offers a valuable opportunity to reform the executive branch. Simply imagining Trump in the White House was enough to make many people understand what we libertarians have been saying for years, namely that the presidency is way too powerful.

But instead of “tyrant-proofing” the Oval Office, President Obama decided to end his term by expanding the NSA’s ability to share the information it collects via mass surveillance. “The New York Times” reports:
  • In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.
  • The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.
  • The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data…increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

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Trump inauguration time, how to watch, and what to expect

The inaugural swearing-in ceremony will begin at 11:30 Eastern on the western front of the Capitol building, where Trump will take the oath of office and make his inaugural address to the American people.

The inaugural parade will follow the swearing-in ceremony, scheduled to begin at 3 pm Eastern and make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.

Trump, Pence, and their wives will attend three official inaugural balls. Two will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and are ticketed; the third is the Armed Services Ball at the National Building Museum, which is by invitation only. Details have not been confirmed.

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Michelle Obama Signs Off As First Lady With Gorgeous Instagram Post

America couldn't have had a classier First Lady during the last eight years. Time and time again Michelle Obama has impressed us, whether it's her passionate stance on girls' education or her killer fashion choices.

On her last day as First Lady of the United States, Michelle posted a sincere thank you post on Instagram. It features a stunning shot of herself and Barack standing arm-in-arm on the Truman Balcony at the White House, gazing off towards the Washington Monument.

"Being your First Lady has been the honor of a lifetime. From the bottom of my heart, thank you," the post reads.

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Michelle Obama's Twitter Farewell: 'Being Your First Lady Has Been the Honor of a Lifetime'

Prior to posting the photo of her and the president, Michelle Obama tweeted a 30-second video of herself taking one last stroll through the White House with the first pooches, Bo and Sunny.

“Taking it in on one last walk through the People’s House,” reads the tweet.

The trio begin their stroll in the Cross Hall, and meander through the South Portico side of the first floor, then to the East Room, Green Room, Blue Room and Red Room.

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Obamas to Travel to Palm Springs After Donald Trump's Inauguration
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha, from left, pose for a family portrait with their pets, Bo and Sunny, in the Rose Garden of the White House on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

A well-deserved vacation. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, will travel to Palm Springs, California, after Donald Trump's inauguration Friday, January 20.

"I can tell you that the first family is looking forward to flying to Palm Springs, California, on Friday," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a news conference Tuesday, January 17. "The president vowed to take his family to a destination that is warmer than Washington, and Palm Springs fits the bill. He and his family have enjoyed the time they spent there in the past, and they're looking forward to traveling there on Friday."

CNN reported that the Obamas will fly aboard the presidential aircraft and will stay at Oval Office decorator Michael Smith's home in Rancho Mirage, California.

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Full Coverage:
First Lady Michelle Obama Sends Sweet Farewell Tweet
Michelle Obama shares final walk through the White House
Michelle Obama's Twitter: 'Being Your 1st Lady Has Been the Honor of a Lifetime'
What Is President Barack Obama's Legacy?
Thank you President Obama
The Faces Behind Obama's Legacy
Obama warns Trump against threatening core US values
'I believe in the American people:' Obama upbeat in last news conference
Obama's final press conference pep talk: 'I think we're going to be OK'
Moving out day at the White House
Obama's legacy of intellect and grace
Obama: 'I think we're going to be OK. We just have to fight for it'
Wilbur Ross' Maid Somehow Trump's Only Nomination Casualty
Obama issues warning to Trump over DREAMers and rights
Obama holds farewell press conference
Obama, optimistic and ominous, sends pointed message to Trump
At Last Presser, Obama Insists 'We're Going to Be OK'
Obama defends role of media in final press conference
Obama offers laments and optimism at last presser
How long b4 Obama's prediction of more diverse presidents comes true?
Obama at final press conference: 'We're going to be OK'
President Obama's Final Word: 'We're Going to Be Okay'
Obama Offers Both Reflections And Rebukes
A look at Obama's legacy: 9 ways he left his mark
Not Always an Ally, Obama Defends Media in Last Press Conference
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President Barack Obama's Final Press Conference Live Blog
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