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Brian Hamilton: As leader of the free world, tone matters

I was only kidding with colleagues when I referred to the farewell speech President Obama was about to deliver as “yesterday’s news.”

I knew as soon as I hit the gym I’d tune in. I just didn’t expect to spend a whole hour on the treadmill.

The reason I was legging things out longer than normal wasn’t that I was hearing anything new. But as he touched on many of the same themes on which we’ve often heard him reflect, Obama did so in the same manner we’ve come to expect over the past eight years, speaking to all Americans, even those who don’t agree with his politics with a measured message.

“We all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.”

But, apparently, that’s what many Americans want, something different. … And there’s little doubt we’re about to get that.

In sharp contrast, of course, came President-Elect Trump’s first press conference the following morning.

He dismissed entire media organizations as publishers of “fake news,” criticized the Democratic National Committee’s internet security while lauding that of the Republican National Committee and answered a question about lifting Obama’s sanctions against Russia by saying, “… do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.”

His words seem to come from a stream of consciousness, without thought or even relevancy. At this point, what does Hillary Clinton’s “toughness” have to do with his plans for dealing with Putin?

Under further questioning, and after insisting he has no business dealings with Russia, about the tax returns he has yet to release — which could likely help shed light on that subject — he once again said he won’t release them as they’re under audit. But even if they weren’t, it now sounds as though that’s one campaign promise he’s not likely to keep.

“You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK?” Trump said. “They’re the only who ask.”

“You don’t think the American public is concerned about it?” a reporter asked.

“No I don’t think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all.”

And perhaps, he’s right.

Trump supporters know why they hired him for the job. They want him to shake things up, fix Washington, “drain the swamp,” as they say. It’s tough to argue against that, considering the current state of our politics, which for too long has been focused on getting elected rather than actually getting things done. And if we’re going to see problems solved, it’s going to take working together.

Or not. Or we’ll watch one party plow forward with its partisan platform and political policies, which Republicans argued the Democrats were guilty of in the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act (Speaking of which, how after all these years — and 60-some votes to repeal it — is there no Republican plan yet to replace it?).

Regardless, if we’re not able to work together, the next election cycle will simply see the “other side” seek to do the same and overturn the opposition’s achievements.

It’s the same old story, one that’s been playing out long before Donald Trump or Barack Obama, for that matter, arrived on the national stage.

Of course, I shouldn’t be shocked by Trump’s tone. It’s effectively the same thin-skinned approach he took throughout his campaign, and continues nearly every day, particularly on his Twitter account.

This week we’ve watched our president-elect slam a Civil Rights leader, who said because reports of Russian interference in the election, he questions the legitimacy of the president-elect (which, of course, seems ironic considering Trump questioned Obama’s own legitimacy nearly right up until he, himself, was elected president).

But to hear President-Elect Trump tell the tale, he’s the victim. Everyone is out to get him. Yet while he’s doing his Rodney Dangerfield act, he’s also lashing out at seemingly anyone who voices opposition, offering little to no respect whether the target of his ire is John Lewis or John McCain.

Despite all of this, I’m not among those who will shout, “Not my president!”

On Friday, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.

I want to see him succeed if it means success for America. But I’ll also voice opposition when it won’t, including many of the policies on which he campaigned.

But it’s a fact. He will be my president, like it or not.

I’d just like to see him become more presidential than what we’ve seen so far.

No, the tone could not be much more different between the incoming and outgoing leaders of the free world.

But, apparently, that’s what many Americans want, something different.

And there’s little doubt we’re about to get that.

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.


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