In remarks in the Rose Garden Wednesday afternoon, President Obama congratulated President-elect Donald Trump on his victory Tuesday night and encouraged Americans to come together in support of a common national interest.
Obama said that what was at times an intensely bitter election ought not divide Americans during a Trump administration.
“The day after, we have to remember that we are actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage,” he said. “We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that.”
“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” Obama said.
Emphasizing the importance of peacefully transitioning to Trump’s administration, Obama noted his own vast differences with his predecessor.
“It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. Remember, eight years ago President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences,” he said. “One thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency and the vice presidency is bigger than any of us.”
The brief statement marked a notable change in tone for the President, who had played “attack dog” for the Clinton campaign in stadiums and amphitheaters around the country for weeks, needling Trump on his impulsiveness and lack of policy knowledge in front of rowdy crowds.
At a Sunday rally, for example, Obama referenced a New York Times report that Trump’s aides had confiscated his cell phone from him.
“Apparently his campaign has taken away his Twitter,” Obama joked to a crowd in Kissimmee, Florida. “If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because SNL made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.”
Obama acknowledged the humbling losses that Clinton and many other Democrats suffered Tuesday, and encouraged young people not to be deterred by those losses in their pursuit of change.
“This was a long and hard fought campaign. A lot of our fellow Americans are exultant today. A lot of Americans are less so,” Obama said. “But that’s the nature of campaigns. That’s the nature of democracy. It is hard. And sometimes contentious and noisy. It’s not always inspiring.”
“Sometimes you lose an argument. Sometimes you lose an election. The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back. And that’s okay,” he continued.
Obama pointed to the progress made by his own administration, saying that he told his “team” to “keep their heads up.”
He praised “the remarkable work that they have done day in and day out—often without a lot of fanfare, often without a lot of attention” to “make government run better and make it more responsive and make it more efficient and make it more service friendly so that is actually helping more people.”
“That remarkable work has left the next president with a stronger better country than the one that existed eight years ago,” Obama said.
The President also seemed to encourage Trump to change his tone as president-elect from his often-harsh, bullying rhetoric during the campaign.
Referencing Trump’s unusually gracious victory speech in the pre-dawn hours, Obama said, “That’s what the country needs. A sense of unity. A sense of inclusion. A respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other.”
“I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition. And I certainly hope that’s how his presidency has a chance to begin,” Obama said.
And, perhaps as a parting shot at the pollsters who so seemed to so severely underestimate Trump’s chances, Obama recalled a video he had released Tuesday afternoon, promising supporters that the sun would rise the next morning no matter who was president-elect.
“And that is one bit of prognosticating that actually came true. The sun is up,” he said.
This post has been updated.