WASHINGTON — After a stormy political season, a ray of civic sunshine peered through the American skies Wednesday.
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama vowed to work together for the betterment of a divided country following an uncommonly bitter campaign to be remembered for, among other things, “Lock her up!” chants at rallies about arresting one of the candidates.
The co-operative language came from a current president who had torn oratorical strips off a president-elect who had previously insinuated Obama wasn’t really an American.
Obama met with reporters outside the White House and joked that the sun had, in fact, risen after such a dreary result for his party.
“It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” Obama said.
“But remember, eight years ago President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running.
“One thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency and the vice-presidency is bigger than any of us. So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect.”
Obama meets with his unlikely successor Thursday, as Trump begins high-level intelligence briefings and prepares to take the reins in 10 weeks.
Speculation now turns to how an unusual president-elect might leave his mark on a town that struggles with what to make of him. Democrat-friendly Washington, D.C., voted 93 per cent for Trump’s opponent, capping a campaign where he was discussed with particular derision, scorn and suspicion by those who occupy the capital’s halls of power – including members of his own party, many of whom refused to work for his campaign or simply avoided speaking his name.
Trump’s platform was ideologically unorthodox. It borrowed from the political left and right, and he displayed a willingness not only to work with either party but mud-wrestle.
Republicans sounded hopeful that he would put forward a conservative Supreme Court judge for a vacancy they’ve refused to fill under Obama. Both the Senate and House leaders congratulated Trump, after mostly avoiding him in the campaign.
The Senate’s Mitch McConnell also made clear there is no chance of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal passing during the lame-duck Congress this fall. Asked whether he intended to push it forward, he replied in one word: “No.”
Trump’s protectionist language had caused some foreign jitters during the campaign, but the Canadian government indicated Wednesday that it saw his insistence on renegotiating NAFTA as a chance to improve the deal. Canada’s ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, suggested it could be improved, for instance, with a chapter on softwood lumber to solve a perennial bilateral irritant.
For her part, Clinton also bowed out graciously — if a day late, after avoiding making a concession speech on election night.
She admitted she felt pain and would probably feel it for some time. But she added that she’d called Trump and offered to work with him.
“I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans,” Clinton told a group including her family and staffers, who shared tears and hugs.
“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.”
She urged the group to keep fighting for causes they care about.
Trump, for his part, also extended the rhetorical peace pipe to an opponent he’d repeatedly referred to as “Crooked Hillary” and threatened to jail.
“Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” he told his Manhattan victory rally the previous night.
“I mean that very sincerely. Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”