One of the biggest worries that critics of Donald Trump have about the incoming president of the United States is about who the soon-to-be leader of the most powerful nation on the planet listens to on specific issues. The answer, many fear, is the last person to speak with him.
That may or may not be true in general, but it appears to apply in at least one particular case: When the last person to speak with him happens to be the sitting president of the United States.
Trump began the day on Wednesday raging on social media about President Obama.
Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks.Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
Trump never specified the statements that were bothering him, but Obama has been peppering his public statements in recent weeks with barely veiled warnings to Trump. And in a joint appearance at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii Tuesday, he appeared to tweak his soon-to-be successor for appealing to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.
At the memorial, accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he said, “It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward...We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.”
Whether that statement qualifies as inflammatory is in the eye of the beholder, but it appeared to annoy Trump.
And the President-elect wasn’t finished. Last week he expressed his anger at Obama for instructing his ambassador to the United Nations to abstain from voting on a Security Council resolution that censured Israel for building settlements in both disputed territories and on land occupied by Palestinians. The abstention -- basically a refusal to employ the U.S. veto on Security Council matters -- allowed the measure to pass unanimously.
He renewed his criticism Wednesday, on Twitter, as usual.
“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” he wrote. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”
In the Trump era, the definition of “shocking” is regularly redefined when it comes to statements on international relations, but for a president-elect to send a direct public message to a foreign government that both criticizes the outgoing administration and makes unspecified policy promises is, at best, uncommon.
The well, it seems, had been poisoned. Trump had not only criticized his predecessor in public but had insinuated that the Obama administration had actively tried to make the presidential transition difficult.
So when reporters confronted the President-elect Wednesday afternoon and asked him about the status of his relationship with the outgoing president, there was some surprise when he said he thought things were going swimmingly.
In a brief exchange outside his residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump was asked about his tweet and about how the transition was progressing. “Oh, I think very, very smoothly. Very good. You don't think so?” he replied.
The difference? A phone call.
“He phoned me,” Trump said when reporters asked whether he had spoken to the president. “We had a very nice conversation.”
“We had a very general conversation,” he added. “Very, very nice. Appreciated that he called.”