News with commentary

Near the end of President Obama’s press conference today he said that he “believes there is a core of decency in this country. I believe in this Country. I believe in the American people.” He still has the audacity to hope, and in that spirit, I believe we should also.

He opened the press conference by thanking the press. I haven’t enjoy every story you’ve filed,” President Obama said, but that’s the point of this relationship.” He went on to say the press is supposed to be skeptical and ask me the tough questions. “You’re not supposed to be complimentary,” he told the reporters in the room.

Obama said the press holds enormous power and a responsibility to hold officials accountable. “You have done that,” he said.

He indicated that there can be no democracy without the press. “I spent a lot of time on my — in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy. It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment of self-government has to work. It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry, and you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power.”

The President thanked the press once again. “I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.”

During a question and answer session Obama was asked what he thought about the boycott some 60 House Democrats are holding against the inauguration. “With respect to the inauguration,” he said, “I’m not going to comment on these issues. All I know is I’m going to be there.”

Regarding sanctions against Russia, Obama said that people are overlooking why the sanctions were put in place to begin with. The sanctions, he said, were imposed because Russia invaded Premea, in the Ukraine. The sanctions  were in place, “not because of nuclear weapons issues, it was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon by force, by Russia.”

Concerning Israel and Palestine and the US vote of abstention at the United Nations concerning new Jewish settlements. Obama said it was done as a “wake up call” to both Israel and Palestine to continue to revisit the idea of the two-state solution.

“I’ve said it inside of Israel, I’ve said it to Palestinians as well. I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy. Because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second class residents,” Obama answered.

Concerning LBGT rights, Obama was asked how it rated in terms of his accomplishments, to which hesaid most of the progress over the last decade is due to activism ” I think we made some useful contributions to it,” he said, “but the primary heroes in this stage of our — our growth as a Democracy and a society are all the individual activists and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, this is who I am and I’m proud of it.”

Those courageous people started to open people’s hearts and minds, Obama told the Press Corps, and eventually, the law caught up.

Obama was asked if he ever though we’d see another black president. “I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith, corner of this country. Because that’s America’s strength. When we have everybody getting a chance and everybody’s on the field, we end up being better.”

The President said he worries over inequality.

“I think that if we are not investing in making sure everybody plays a role in this economy, the economy will not grow as fast and I think it will also lead to further and further separation between us as Americans — not just along racial lines. I mean, there are a whole bunch of folks who voted for the president-elect because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised.”

Obama also said he is worried about voting rights.

“The reason that we are the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote is — it traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery and it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise (ph). And that’s not who we are. That shouldn’t be who we are. That’s not when America works best. So I hope that people pay a lot of attention to making sure that everybody has a chance to vote. Make it easier, not harder.”

Regarding voter fraud, Obama said that it is an issue that has constantly been disproved. “This is fake news.”

“We have the opposite problem. We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote. And so the idea that we put in place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t make sense. And then the — you know, as I said before, political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do so that these aren’t competitive races and we get 90 percent Democratic districts, 90 percent Republican districts, that’s bad for our democracy too. I worry about that,” the President said.

The final question was about the President’s daughters. He said he couldn’t be prouder. I try to teach them about hope, he said, and that “the only thing that is the end of the world, is the end of the world.” When you get knocked down, you brush yourself off and get back to work.

And so, the President who campaigned on hope, leaves office with that message still as fresh off his tongue as the first day he said it.

Farewell Mr. President. You will be missed.