Obama on Election: ‘I Think I Did a Pretty Good Job’ as President; People Wanted to ‘Shake Things Up’

By Melanie Arter | November 15, 2016 | 12:44 PM EST

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – In a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsiparas, President Barack Obama disputed the notion that the presidential election results were a referendum on his job as president, saying Tuesday that people think he “did a pretty good job” as president and the election of Donald Trump was because the American people wanted to “shake things up.”

“People seem to think I did a pretty good job, and so there is this mismatch I think between frustration and anger. Perhaps the view of the American people was, is that you just need to shake things up. Time will now tell whether the prescriptions that are being offered – whether Brexit or with respect to the U.S. election – ends up actually satisfying those people who’ve been fearful or angry or concerned,” Obama said.

The president said the U.S. “is indisputably better off” because of him, and those who voted for Trump “are better off than they were when I came into office for the most part.”

“And I think that’s going to be an interesting test, because I think I can make a pretty strong argument that the policies we put forward were the right ones, that we’ve grown faster than just about any advanced economy. The country is indisputably better off, and those folks who voted for the president-elect are better off than they were when I came into office for the most part, but we’ll see whether those facts affect people’s calculations in the next election,” Obama said.

Obama was asked whether Trump’s election was the result of the same dynamic as the Brexit vote in the U.K., whether it had to do with leaders struggling to read the mood of their country, and whether Obama underestimated the anger, resentment or fear in America.

“No two countries are identical, and obviously, there’s a difference between a referendum on a very complex relationship between Great Britain and the rest of Europe and a presidential election in the United States,” Obama said.

“Presidential elections always turn on personalities,” he said. “They turn on how campaigns are run. They turn on natural desires for change. If you’ve had an incumbent who’s been there for 8 years, there’s a temptation to think well, let’s maybe make a change.

“I think there are a whole range of factors involved, but I do think there is a common theme that we’ve seen in a lot of advanced economies and that we’ve seen around the world, although they manifest themselves in different ways,” he said.

“Globalization combined with technology, combined with social media and constant information, have disrupted people’s lives sometimes in very concrete ways. A manufacturing plant closes and suddenly an entire town no longer has what was the primary source of employment, but also psychologically. People are less certain of their national identities or their place in the world. It starts looking different and disorienting,” Obama added.

Obama said “there is no doubt” that it “has produced populous movements both from the left and the right in many countries in Europe.”

“When you see a Donald Trump and a Bernie Sanders, very unconventional candidates have considerable success than obviously, there’s something there that’s being tapped into – a suspicion of globalization, a desire to reign in its excesses, a suspicion of elites and governing institutions that people feel may not be responsive to their immediate needs, and that sometimes gets wrapped up in issues of ethnic identity or religious identity or cultural identity, and that can be a volatile mix,” he said.

“It’s important to recognize though that those trends have always been there, and it’s the job I think of leaders to try to address people’s real, legitimate concerns and channel them in the most constructive ways possible,” Obama said.

“Did I recognize that there was anger, frustration in the American population? Of course I did,” Obama said. “First of all, we had to fight back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and I can guarantee you if your housing values have crashed, and you’ve lost most of your pension, and you’ve lost your job, you’re going to be pretty angry.

“And so we fought back and recovered, but that left I think fear and anxiety in a lot of people, a sense that the economy wasn’t as certain as it could be and maybe the game was rigged on Wall Street or by special interests in Washington or what have you, and that’s been there,” the president explained.

Obama said he’s also aware of the American people’s frustration “because of the fact that you have seen some of the rhetoric among Republican elected officials and activists and media - some of it pretty troubling and not necessarily connected to facts, but being used effectively to mobilize people.”

He said Trump “tapped into that particular strain within the Republican Party and then was able to broaden that enough and get enough votes to win the election.”

The lesson Obama drew from that, he said, was “maybe one that cuts across countries is we have to deal with issues like inequality. We have to deal with issues of economic dislocation. We have to deal with people’s fears that their children won’t do as well as they have.

“The more aggressively and effectively we deal with those issues, the less those fears may channel themselves into counterproductive approaches that pit people against each other, and frankly, that’s been my agenda for the last 8 years,” Obama said.

Obama blamed the GOP for not being able to pass parts of his agenda.

“I think raising wages, investing in infrastructure, making sure that people have access to good educations that equip them for the jobs of the future, those are all agenda items that would help alleviate some of those economic pressures and dislocations that people are experiencing. The problem was I couldn’t the Republican Congress to pass a lot of them,” he said.

“Now having said that, people seem to think I did a pretty good job, and so there is this mismatch I think between frustration and anger. Perhaps the view of the American people was is that you just need to shake things up. Time will now tell whether the prescriptions that are being offered – whether Brexit or with respect to the U.S. election – ends up actually satisfying those people who’ve been fearful or angry or concerned,” Obama said.

“And I think that’s going to be an interesting test, because I think I can make a pretty strong argument that the policies we put forward were the right ones, that we’ve grown faster than just about any advanced economy. The country is indisputably better off, and those folks who voted for the president-elect are better off than they were when I came into office for the most part, but we’ll see whether those facts affect people’s calculations in the next election,” he added.