In an epic (well, in length) press conference marking his final days in office, President Obama made it very clear that he wasn't going to magically save the Republic from Donald Trump, and that all the issues still outstanding in both domestic and foreign policy that suffered from constant GOP obstruction are now 100% their problems to try to solve.
I think overall Barack Obama has done a pretty damned good job, especially given the constant hatred he's gotten from the Republicans since day one of his first term. Republicans conspired to drive him out of office and while they failed in 2012, they did succeed in badly damaging Democrats in nearly every other state.
I'm not going to lie, the Dems are in dire straits right now, and are barely able to put up any sort of national defense against Trump's coming diplomatic, military and economic disaster. Obama's not going to be able to save us. Schumer and Pelosi aren't either. We're going to have to do the hard work at the local and state level to try to build a foundation strong enough that we can get back in this fight, and that's going to mean lots of time, resources, and people willing to spend them effectively.
More of President Obama's statements after the jump.
On Russia's hacking of the election:
Now, with respect to how this thing unfolded last year, let's just go through the facts pretty quickly. At the beginning of the summer, were alerted to the possibility that the DNC has been hacked. And I made (ph) an order, law enforcement, as well as our intelligence teams to find out everything about it, investigate it thoroughly to brief the potential victims of this hacking, to brief on a bipartisan basis the leaders of both the House and the Senate and the relevant intelligence committees.
And once we had clarity and certainty around what in fact had happened, we publicly announced that in fact Russia had hacked into the DNC. And at that time, we did not attribute motives or you know any interpretations of why they had done so.
We didn't discuss what the effects of it might be. We simply let people know -- the public know just as we had let members of Congress know that this had happened.
And as a consequence, all of you wrote a lot of stories about both what had happened and then you interpreted why that might have happened and what effect it was going to have on the election outcomes. We did not -- and the reason we did not was because in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, at a time when my primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election process was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens. I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were playing this thing straight, that we weren't trying to advantage one side or another. But what we were trying to do was let people know that this had taken place.
And so if you started seeing effects on the election, if you were trying to measure why this was happening and how you should consume the information that was being leaked, that you might want to take this into account. And that's exactly how we should have handled it.
Imagine if we had done the opposite, it would become immediately just one more political scrum. And part of the goal here was to make sure that we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place -- at a time, by the way, when the president-elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election.
And finally, I think it's worth pointing out, that the information was already out. It was in the hands of Wikileaks, so that was going to come out no matter what.
What I was concerned about in particular was making sure that that wasn't compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself.
And so in early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that did not happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not.
And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks through Wikileaks had already occurred.
So when I look back in terms of how we handled it, I think we handled it the way it should have been handled. We allowed law enforcement and the intelligence community to do its job without political influence.
On Syria, Aleppo, and Assad:
So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings -- if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings -- where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we'd bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.
Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.
So it may be that with Aleppo's tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world's eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.
Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that's going to arise.
Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.
And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.
I'm somewhere in between. I think all of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes. I think one of the -- I've said this before, I am very proud of the work I've done. I think I'm a better president now than when I started. But you know, if you're here for eight years in the bubble, you start seeing things a certain way and you benefit from -- the democracy benefits, America benefits from some new perspectives.
And I think it should be not just the prerogative, but the obligation of a new president to examine everything that's been done and see what makes sense and what doesn't. That's what I have done when I came in and I'm assuming any new president's gonna undertake those same exercises.
And given the importance of the relationship between United States and China, given how much is at stake in terms of the world economy, national security, our presence in the Asia-Pacific, China's increasing role in international affairs, there's probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and where there's also the potential if that relationship breaks down or goes into full conflict mode that everybody is worse off. So I think it's fine for him to take a look at it. What I have advised the president-elect is that across the board on foreign policy, you want to make sure that you're doing it in a systematic, deliberate, intentional way.
And since there's only one president at a time, my advice to him has been that before he starts having a lot of interactions with foreign governments other than the usual courtesy calls, that he should want to have his full team in place, that he should want his team to be fully briefed on what's gone on in the past and where the potential pitfalls may be, where the opportunities are, what we've learned from eight years of experience so that as he's then maybe taking foreign policy in a new direction, he's got all the information to make good decisions, and by the way, that all of government is moving at the same time and singing from the same hymnal.
And with respect to China -- and let's just take the example of Taiwan, there has been a longstanding agreement essentially between China and the United States, and to some agree the Taiwanese, which is to not change the status quo. Taiwan operates differently than mainland China does. China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.
The Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they're able to continue to function with some agree of autonomy, that they won't charge forward and declare independence. And that status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and -- of people who have a high agree of self-determination. What I understand for China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket.
The idea of One China is at the heart of their conception as a nation. And so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what the consequences because the Chinese will not treat that the way they'll treat some other issues. They won't even treat it the way they issues around the South China Sea, where we've had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves.