He was sober and cautious, refusing to take several servings of bait offered up to him. He insisted on the importance of principles and norms. He asked for questions from an array of reporters, including a few critics. And he spoke sentimentally about his wife and daughters.
President Barack Obama presented a carefully constructed parting image for the American public on Wednesday at his final news conference and final public event in office.
It was a performance that added to the long list of contrasts between the 44th and 45th presidents — one that will make even more jarring the shift that will happen at noon on Friday in front of the Capitol.
“This is not just a matter of ‘no-drama Obama,’ this is what I really believe. It is true that behind closed doors, I curse more than I do publicly, and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does,” Obama said, “but at my core, I think we’re going to be OK.”
Last week, President-elect Donald Trump’s first news conference since being elected was a constructed circus, complete with a prop of piles of alleged legal papers that no one was allowed to verify. He was eagerly combative with reporters crowded into the closed-off lobby of Trump Tower, fuzzy on direct answers, and stocked with staff to cheer him on.
Obama, who tends to think carefully about the image he projects, brought only a presidential seal paper cup of tea to the White House briefing room, staring intently at reporters as they asked him questions and barely reacting. A reporter noting as part of a set-up that he was the first black president drew only a short, suppressed smile. The most animated he got was in talking about sports as he held up the U.S. Olympic team as a symbol of America’s strength through diversity.