Obama: Trump tapped into a ‘troubling’ strain

Politics

President Barack Obama was girding for more questions about his successor Tuesday as his final presidential overseas trip began in Greece. Obama also sat for formal talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the neo-classical presidential mansion in central Athens.

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ATHENS, Greece — President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Donald Trump tapped into a “troubling” strain of rhetoric playing on Americans’ fears of globalization to win the presidency.

Speaking in Athens, Obama said he recognized an “anger and fear in the American population” over threats of mechanization and globalization, but that Republican officials didn’t use facts when making their case about the US economy.

“You’ve 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,” Obama said at a news conference alongside Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “And obviously President-elect 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.”

Obama said countries across Europe, as well as the United States, were confronting populist movements based on a fear of intruding global forces.

“People are less certain of their national identities or their place in the world. It starts looking different and disorienting. And there is no doubt that has produced populist movements, both from the left and the right.”

“That sometimes gets wrapped up in issues of ethnic identity or religious identity or cultural identity. And that can be a volatile mix,” he went on.

Obama also called Greece a “reliable ally” in its commitment to NATO, even under tremendous strain from the country’s debt crisis.

“We are proud to count Greece as one of our closest allies and one of our greatest friends,” Obama said at the news conference, commending the country’s ability to meet its financial obligations to NATO despite austerity measures.

Global leaders have expressed concerns over President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion on the campaign trail that the US might not keep its current level of international commitments, including to NATO.

During a news conference from the White House on Monday, Obama was peppered with queries about Trump, whom the President said had affirmed a commitment to transatlantic ties during their meeting in the Oval Office last week.

“In my conversation with the President-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships,” Obama said. “And so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance. I think that’s one of the most important functions I can serve at this stage, during this trip, is to let them know that there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America’s commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship, and a recognition that those alliances aren’t just good for Europe, they’re good for the United States, and they’re vital for the world.”

Greek debt crisis

Air Force One touched down at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport just past 3:30 a.m. ET (10:30 a.m. local time) on Tuesday, where Obama was greeted with a red carpet and an ornate display of military pageantry.

In the morning preceding his news conference, Obama paid a courtesy call to Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Obama also sat for formal talks with Tsipras at the neo-classical presidential mansion in central Athens.

Ahead of the meeting, Obama had said he would stress that debt reduction strategies beyond austerity must be utilized in Europe going forward.

“I will continue to emphasize our view that austerity alone cannot deliver prosperity,” Obama said, traveling with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who was expected to discuss Greece’s persistent debt crisis with officials here.

Obama’s final international swing will also bring him to Germany and Peru, where questions about Trump are set to dominate his conversations with foreign counterparts.

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