In what was potentially the last press conference of Barack Obama’s presidency, he answered questions about Syria, Russia and his successor. The Russian hack was obviously the subject of most of the questions he was asked. Obama’s most memorable comment came after he cited an Economist poll which showed that 37% of Republicans say that they approve of Vladimir Putin:
Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB, Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave.
The same polls shows that among both Republicans and Democrats Putin had about a 10% approval rating only two years ago. Republicans were actually slightly more likely to have an unfavorable opinion of him. But when asked the same question over the last few weeks Republican favorability had risen to 37% while his numbers decreased among Democrats over that same period. Similarly, Americans are divided along party lines with respect to how much they say they trust the CIA.
President Obama reassured Americans that Russia cannot hurt us. In an uncharacteristic statement he declared that Russia is weak and that “no one wants to buy their goods.” But he cautioned that if we continue to divide ourselves this way that we will become susceptible to Putin’s attacks:
How did this happen? It happened in part because for too long everything that happens in this town, everything that’s said is seen through the lens of does this help or hurt us relative to Democrats or relative to President Obama.
He also added that as conservative news outlets (he didn’t call them conservative he just said “some”) begin to run more and more sensationalized stories about their opponents that those readers in turn become more susceptible to Russian propaganda. In a sense, what Obama is saying is that we have been propagandizing our own population and that it’s making us weak and rallying our enemies. And in his typical classy manner he spoke pleasantly of Trump while outlining the changes in him he’d like to see.
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