President-elect Donald Trump is in for a quick wake-up call when he confronts the enormous responsibilities and realities of his new job on Jan. 20, President Barack Obama said with sympathy on Monday.
In a news conference at the White House, Obama said the freewheeling Trump could not be as outspoken as he was during the long and bitter campaign that ended last week with the Republican’s surprise win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Subdued and carefully choosing his words, Obama gave what appeared to be dispassionate advice to his successor free of much of the partisan rancor that marked the election campaign.
“This office has a way of waking you up,” Obama said. “Those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick because reality has a way of asserting itself.”
The two men met in the Oval Office last week to begin the transition of power. Obama said on Monday he believed Trump would be pragmatic in office and not approach the country’s problems from an ideological perspective.
“There are going to be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well, unless he recognizes them and corrects them,” said Obama.
“Because when you’re a candidate and you say something that is inaccurate or controversial it has less impact than it does when you’re president of the United States. Everybody around the world is paying attention. Markets move,” he said.
Obama declined to wade into a controversy over Trump’s appointment of right-wing firebrand Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, saying it would “not be appropriate” for him to comment on Trump’s appointments.
But Obama, who criticized Trump’s temperament during the campaign, said it was important for Trump to send signals of unity after the hard-fought campaign. He said the political gifts that allowed the Republican to execute his upset of Clinton would be put to good use in the White House.
Democrats, civil rights groups and even some Republicans slammed Trump for choosing Bannon as a key aide, saying it would elevate the white nationalist movement into the top levels of the White House.
Making his first appointments since last week’s upset win, Trump picked Bannon as his chief strategist and counselor, and Washington insider Reince Priebus as his chief of staff on Sunday, saying the two would share the task of steering his administration as “equal partners.”
The choice of Priebus was seen as a conciliatory signal of Trump’s willingness to work with Congress after he takes office. But critics blasted the selection of Bannon, who spearheaded a shift of the Breitbart News website into a forum for the “alt-right,” a loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.
“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who called on Trump to rescind the choice.
Democrats and advocacy groups on the left called Bannon a promoter of racism and misogyny who is backed by the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.
“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’- a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.
The Democrats’ leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said Bannon’s appointment sent “an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.”
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Frances Kerry and Alistair Bell)