Tuesday, October 18, 2016

President Obama: Plain Truths as Palate Cleanser

President Obama hosted his last state dinner on Tuesday, for the Prime Minister of Italy. (The guest list included Giorgio Armani, Roberto Benegni, Mayor Peduto of Pittsburgh, Jerry Seinfeld and James Taylor.)   But before the pasta was served, the President took questions from the media.  A few of his key responses:

On Trump and his rigged election charges:
"I have never seen, in my lifetime or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place.

It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts; every expert, regardless of political party, regardless of ideology, conservative or liberal, who has ever examined these issues in a serious way, will tell you that instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found, that — keep in mind, elections are run by state and local officials, which means that there are places like Florida, for example, where you’ve got a Republican governor, whose Republican appointees are going to running and monitoring a whole bunch of these election sites.

The notion that somehow if Mr. Trump loses Florida, it’s because of those people that you have to watch out for, that is both irresponsible and, by the way, doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you want out of a president.

If you start whining before the game’s even over, if whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job because there are a lot of times when things don’t go our way or my way.

That’s OK, you fight through it, you work through it, you try to accomplish your goals. But the larger point I want to emphasize here is that there is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even — you could even rig America’s elections, in part, because they are so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved.

There is no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time. And so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes."

On the State Dept./FBI/ emails story:
"With respect to the State Department and the FBI reports, I think you’ve heard directly from both the FBI and the State Department that the notion or the accounts that have been put out there are just not true. And you know, you can question them again.

But based on what we have seen, heard, learned, some of the more sensational implications or appearances, as you stated them, aren’t based on actual events and based on what actually happened and I think derived from sort of overly broad characterizations of interactions between the State Department and the FBI that happen a lot and happen between agencies."

On Putin, Trump, Republicans and Russia:

"In Syria, one of my earliest meetings with Putin was to suggest to him, that if Assad stayed in power, given brutality with which he treated his own people, he would see a civil war that would not be good for the Syrians, certainly, but would not be good for the world anywhere.  Rather than to work with us to try to solve the problem, he doubled down on his support for Assad, and we know of the situation that exists there. So, any characterization that somehow we have improperly challenged Russia aggression or have somehow tried to encroach on their legitimate interests is just wrong.

And Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin, is unprecedented in American politics, and is out of step with, not just what Democrats think but out of step with what, up until the last few months, almost every Republican thought, including some of the ones who are now endorsing Mr. Trump.

So you don’t have to explain to me how it is that some of the same leaders of the Republican Party, who were constantly haranguing us for even talking to the Russians, and who consistently took the most hawkish approaches to Russia, including Mr. Trump’s selection for vice president, now reconciles their endorsement of Mr. Trump with their previous views.

The bottom line is, is that we think that Russia is a large important country with a military that is second only to ours, and has to be a part of the solution on the world stage, rather than part of the problem. But their behavior has undermined international norms and international rules in ways that we have to call them out on. And anybody who occupies this office should feel the same way because these are values that we fought for and we protected."

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