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In Farewell, Obama Sets Red Lines That Would Pull Him Back Into Fray – The New York Times

video – President Obama addressed a wide range of issues, including Chelsea Manning and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during his last meeting with the White House press corps.-By REUTERS. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

nytimes.com – In Farewell, Obama Sets Red Lines That Would Pull Him Back Into Fray**

WASHINGTON — When President Obama arrived in office eight years ago, the departing President George W. Bush essentially withdrew from public life, declaring that his successor deserves my silence.” It was an approach that Mr. Obama greatly appreciated but does not intend to follow.

At the final news conference of his presidency, Mr. Obama made clear on Wednesday that he finds some ideas advanced by President-elect Donald J. Trump so alarming that he laid out markers that would draw him back into the fray.

“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,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room.

Mr. Obama continued: “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’d 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.”

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Mr. Obama did say he was looking forward to some quiet time and does not plan to stay involved in the hurly-burly of politics. He has told advisers and friends that he wants to be careful not to become such a regular public critic of Mr. Trump that he alienates the mercurial new president.

Since the election, the departing president has tried to forge a relationship of sorts with his successor and hopes to keep lines of communication open to privately influence Mr. Trump to the degree that he can.

Mr. Obama also used his final formal meeting with reporters in the White House to defend his lame-duck decisions to commute the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning and rescind a preferential immigration policy for Cubans.

He sent what he called “a wake-up call” to Israel to make peace with the Palestinians and warned against lifting sanctions against Russia unless it reversed its intervention in Ukraine. He weighed in one more time on gay rights, race relations and war with the Islamic State.

video – How the Presidency Changed Obama

A president who transformed the country and learned the limits of the possible.

The encounter had a last-day-of-school feel to it, as history wrapped up one chapter and prepared to open a new one. Reporters packed the White House briefing room, filling every one of the 49 permanent seats and crowding alongside young White House staff members into the aisles, craning to see Mr. Obama present his final thoughts from behind a podium with the presidential seal.

A few of the president’s still-remaining aides sat wistfully on the side of the room, taking a break from packing their belongings and sending out their personal email addresses and cellphone numbers. Most planned to leave the West Wing for good on Thursday afternoon, making way for their successors in the Trump administration.

Mr. Obama faced the cameras and the bright lights for exactly 59 minutes, cracking a small smile occasionally as he methodically worked through his list of reporters and answering their questions one last time with a sense of melancholy. He ignored several reporters who tried to shout out questions, and paid little attention to the inevitable cellphones that interrupted.

Having spent more than a decade pursuing, and then occupying, the White House, Mr. Obama appeared to realize that the spotlight was finally swinging away from him: “I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work rather than always the subject of it,” he told the reporters. But he also seemed like a man all too aware that a part of his life was ending — perhaps the most invigorating part.

Mr. Obama leaves with rising approval ratings but an eight-year legacy that is under attack even before Mr. Trump is inaugurated. He declined to comment on the decision of dozens of congressional Democrats to boycott Mr. Trump’s inauguration. “All I know is I’m going to be there,” he said. “So is Michelle.”

Playing to the audience in front of him, Mr. Obama used the occasion to implicitly urge Mr. Trump not to impose harsh new restrictions on the news media.

Mr. Trump has had a volatile relationship with reporters for years, and his aides suggested recently that they might move journalists out of the White House briefing room, but they have backed away from the idea for now.

While needling reporters for their foibles, Mr. Obama said their presence inside the West Wing was important for democracy. “Having you in this building has made this place work better,” he told the reporters. “It keeps us honest.”

Mr. Obama has frequently clashed with news organizations, and he was aggressive in prosecuting leaks of government information. He also regularly sought to communicate with the public by going around the traditional news media, using social media tools and sitting down for interviews with the hosts of YouTube programs.

His clemency for Ms. Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking American military and diplomatic secrets in 2010, seemed like a late attempt to temper a legacy of pursuing reporters’ sources.

Dismissing concerns that he was sending the wrong message to others who then might divulge classified information, Mr. Obama pointed out that Ms. Manning had already served seven years in prison.

“First of all, let’s be clear,” he said. “Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished, I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.”

He added: “I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.”

He also defended his decision to end a two-decade-old policy allowing Cubans who make it to the United States without a visa to stay. “That was a carry-over of an old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age,” he said.

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Mr. Obama signaled that he was ready for some time away from the spotlight. He spoke longingly about celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.

“I want to do some writing,” he said. “I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much. I want to spend precious time with my girls. So those are my priorities this year.”

Asked how he had explained Mr. Trump’s election to his daughters, Mr. Obama ruminated about America, good and evil, and the arc of history. He spoke with equanimity about his party’s loss and its future.

“This is not just a matter of no-drama Obama,” he said. “This is what I really believe. It’s true that behind closed doors I curse more than I do publicly, and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does. But at my core, I think we’re going to be O.K.”

He seemed to be saying he would be, too.

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Sorgente: In Farewell, Obama Sets Red Lines That Would Pull Him Back Into Fray – The New York Times

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