The Obamas Say Goodbye to Washington
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 1/20/2017, 3:37 p.m.
By Kevin Liptak
CNN White House Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Gliding toward Joint Base Andrews in his military helicopter Friday, Barack Obama watched a dramatically altered Washington recede from view, the work of his presidency now over and the future of his accomplishments uncertain.
Waving at a crowd gathered to witness his political and ideological opposite sworn into office, Obama revealed no apprehension at handing the most powerful job in the world to Donald Trump. His head cocked, there were no outward signs of hard feelings as Donald Trump derided his tenure during his inaugural address.
But the differences with his successor were plain. The White House's final tweet under Obama was a photo of Obama hand-in-hand with Democratic Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights leader who Trump lambasted this week, walking down the Alabama bridge where Lewis was beaten by police in 1965.
And Obama previewed a return to public life when he was addressing members of his staff at Joint Base Andrews moments after Trump was sworn in.
"This is just a little pit stop," he said. "This is not a period, this is a comma in the continuing story."
Obama is more popular by far than his successor, but the accomplishments that defined his presidency are in doubt. Trump ran on a change agenda, vowed to end many of Obama's programs, and has a Republican Congress that's largely in step with his governing priorities.
The two men share a long and personal animosity. Trump stoked the racist birther conspiracy that suggested Obama wasn't a legitimate president. Obama jabbed Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner 2011, enraging the real estate mogul.
Unease about the future, however, was cast aside Friday, as Obama and Trump carried out the traditional rituals of transferring power.
The handoff began in the morning when Obama and his wife greeted the incoming first couple on the steps of the North Portico. The mood was jocular; Obama told Trump he would get used to the camera snaps that will soon accompany many of his movements. It's only the second time the two have met, after their post-election huddle in the Oval Office.
The moment was a symbol of Democracy's reins being handed off peacefully.
Not handed off quite as gracefully: a blue box from the American jeweler Tiffany and Co., a gift from Melania Trump to her predecessor, Michelle Obama that was awkwardly given to an aide before the formal photo was snapped.
Inside, the couples sat for tea and coffee in the White House Blue Room. The space is situated one floor below the private living quarters where the Obamas slept on Thursday night and where Trump will sleep Friday.
The Obamas, who traveled to Capitol Hill in the same armored limousine with the Trumps, dutifully watched the swearing-in and speech. They stood on the East Front steps of the Capitol with their replacements, he chatting amiably and she stoic. They stepped for a final time into the military helicopter, known for this flight as Executive One without a sitting president aboard.