AMY WALTER: Hello. I’m Amy Walter. This is the Washington Week Extra. First up, we continue the conversation we barely touched on during the show: Donald Trump’s tweets – (laughs) – that is always hard to say – Donald Trump’s tweets, the impact on the global audience. Yochi, what is it that when he’s tweeting these things out, the whole world, of course, is picking up his tweets – not just folks here in the U.S. How does the rest of the world see him? And what is his relationship, do you think, with many of these world leaders? We’ve seen his relationship with Netanyahu and with Putin. But how are others viewing the incoming president?
YOCHI DREAZEN: First of all, a lot of these countries are just confused. I mean, there are two presidents both nominally – one in office, one coming into office, saying vastly different things. Trump’s tweets often, as we know, contradict each other. One say he says one thing, the next one – the next day he says the other. What we’re seeing about Trump that’s consistent is that with strong guys, with tough guys, he loves them all. And when they see him coming in, they figure we can wait out President Obama.
And you’ve seen this with Bibi Netanyahu. You’ve seen this with Vladimir Putin. You’ve seen this with the head of the Philippines, who has called Barack Obama a son of a B, a son of a W. He’s cursed him in all kinds of creative ways. Then he spoke to Donald Trump and said we had a great conversation. Donald Trump told me to keep doing what I’m doing. He said I’m welcome in the United States. President Obama has said this man has overseen the killing of thousands of his own people. President-elect Trump has said: Come on home. You’re welcome.
MS. WALTER: Indira, what about Europe? How are they feeling? So we know how –
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: We know that Duterte in the Philippines thinks Trump is great. They have the same sort of – you know, they call Duterte, “Duterte Harry.” He, you know, has called for extrajudicial killings. He’s said a lot of things that a lot of – I think that Trump and his supporters might think but don’t come right out and say. Sisi in Egypt, there are many leaders who have said, you know, boy, maybe we just wait it out and we won’t get the same tongue-lashing about human rights or whatever that we got from the Obama administration. Maybe this is going to be a better deal for us.
I think in Europe, it’s something entirely different. I think that Angela Merkel is probably sitting there and thinking: Oh, my goodness. What is going to happen next? What is Trump going to say and do next? So I think our traditional allies are not so psyched about Trump taking over, or at least they’re worried.
But I thought it was very curious this week that Theresa May in Britain basically put out this gratuitous parting shot at John Kerry over his speech on the Middle East, criticizing him for, you know, essentially being mean to Israel, when in fact Britain was one of the countries that was sponsoring this resolution in the United Nations that Israel was unhappy about. And, you know, this gets lost. But this is the very first time that the Obama administration has allowed a U.N. resolution critical of Israel to go through. Whereas previous U.S. presidents have allowed many – 21 under Ronald Reagan alone. So I thought it took some cheek for Theresa May to be criticizing John Kerry when her country was actually backing that resolution.
PHILIP RUCKER: And it shows a calculus to try to get close to the incoming Trump administration.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: Absolutely, playing for political points.
MR. RUCKER: Build a relationship, yeah.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: Absolutely.
MS. WALTER: Right. Well, President Obama was asked about the 2016 election, and in reflection he said that if he’d been allowed to run for a third term he would have won. We’re going to take a listen from a podcast interview he did with David Axelrod.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From video.) I’m confident that if I had run again, and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it. I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.
MS. WALTER: Phil, what was the point of his – (laughs) – comments saying basically: I would have won if I had gone up against Trump?
MR. RUCKER: Well, he’s trying to protect his legacy, President Obama is, and trying to show that the vote for Donald Trump in November was not a vote against the Obama years and the record that Obama achieved. It certainly got under Trump’s skin. We saw that with the tweets that Trump fired off. Trump cares a lot about legitimacy and power and projecting strength. And he – the Obama statement really undercut that.
But the most interesting thing to look for going forward is, what does Obama say after January 20th? Is he and Michelle Obama – are they going to disappear and be quiet, or are they going to kind of pop up from time to time and offer critiques? Especially Michelle Obama, the first lady. She was perhaps the most effective surrogate on the campaign trail critiquing Donald Trump. And I’d be surprised if she stayed quiet all year.
MS. WALTER: The president himself in that interview said he thought he would only make statements – be public if there was something egregious that he needed to address. How hard do you think it’s going to be for him to stay silent?
MR. RUCKER: I think it will be hard. First of all, he’s going to be watching a lot of the key pillars of his legacy just collapse in the Trump years. That’s going to be difficult to watch silently. It’s also going to be hard for him because the Democratic Party is going to need him. There’s no other leader that can command the level of respect and authority, and the megaphone, frankly, that former President Obama will be able to do in the Democratic Party. So they’re going to need him to come forward from time to time and articulate a contrast to Trump.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: Isn’t that because the bench is so not deep? It’s such a shallow bench for the Democrats at this point.
MR. RUCKER: It is.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: And honestly, even though it may have been silly for him to say I would have beaten Trump, the polls show he’s right. The polls show he does have a higher approval rating that Donald Trump does.
MR. RUCKER: And he remains more popular than Trump.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: And he remains more popular than Trump.
MR. RUCKER: Which bothers Trump.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: It’s the reality of the polls that gets under Trump’s skin.
ELIANA JOHNSON: OK, but, I mean, the truth is, like, presidents don’t run for third terms. And so approval rating – I mean, Hillary Clinton had a higher approval rating than Trump as well. And he said, you know, she actually did mobilize a majority of the American people also. And I think that his remarks showed that, you know, he – Obama obviously gets under Trump’s skin, but Trump gets under Obama’s skin too.
MR. RUCKER: That’s exactly right.
MS. JOHNSON: And I think it demonstrates, like, that these people who become president, they have big egos. And as Trump has a big and fragile ego, Obama also has a big and fragile ego. That’s sort of part and parcel of what it takes to reach, you know, the heights of American politics.
MS. WALTER: Yeah, you have to have an ego to be president? (Laughter.) I never heard that before, Eliana.
Well, let’s turn to four years from now, so the 2020 Democratic field. Retiring Senator Harry Reid told New York Magazine, quote, “It appears we’re going to have an old-folks’ home.” We’ve got Warren – that’s Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts – she’ll be 71. Biden will be 78. Bernie will be 79. It’s also note that – Eliana – that Harry Reid is 77. So he’s not a young chicken.
MS. JOHNSON: Yeah, he said that, like, doddering out on a cane with a, you know, wounded eye. (Laughter.) So –
MS. WALTER: So, but, that is the point that Indira was making as well, which is what’s the deal with the – with the Democratic bench? Is that really what we’re looking at is a bunch of 70-year-olds as their potential 2020 prospects?
MS. JOHNSON: Right now it is. And I actually think that that’s perhaps the thing Obama is most sensitive to, because for all of the incredible electoral victories that he’s amassed and the revolution in data and targeting that he oversaw, he was rather inwardly focused rather than focused on really cultivating young talent in the Democratic Party. And the midterm elections in particular, because of the ideological pushes and the legislative successes he saw, saw Democrats slaughtered in 2010 and 2014. And so there just isn’t the sort of talent – and the Republican successes on the state and local levels, in gubernatorial elections and in statehouses, have also really, really hurt the party.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: Right. That’s why I think it’s so interesting what Phil said about Michelle Obama, because she has been one of the most popular figures, even though she’s not an elected official herself. And I think that’s part of why she has been a magnet for so much hatred on the Republican side, and so many racist attacks against her that have come out recently – partly because she was such an effective surrogate for the Democrats. She’ll certainly – someone will be pressuring her to run, I think, as well.
MR. RUCKER: Yeah.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: Not that she’s definitely – not that she’s going to go for it. But there’ll be pressure on her.
MS. WALTER: Well, we can talk about that on the next round.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: I can’t believe you’re talking about 2020 already.
MS. WALTER: All right. Thanks, everybody.
While you’re online, test your knowledge of current events on the Washington Week-ly 2016 News Quiz. You can find it at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek. And we’ll see you next year on the Washington Week Extra. Good night.