Obama’s final sermon: Don’t be sycophants, be sceptics, ask the tough questions

Barack Obama’s remarks to the White House press corps at his last press conference as president of the United States, Jan 18, 2017

We have travelled the world together. We did a few singles, a few doubles together. I’ve offered advice that I thought was pretty sound, like don’t do stupid stuff. (Laughter)

And even when you complained about my long answers, I just want you to know that the only reason they were long was because you asked six-part questions. (Laughter)

Obama's final White House press conference, Jan 18, 2017

But I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that’s the point of this relationship. You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be sceptics, you’re supposed to ask me tough questions. You’re not supposed to be complimentary, but you’re supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power and make sure that we are accountable to the people who sent us here, and you have done that.

And you have done it for the most part in ways that I could appreciate for fairness, even if I didn’t always agree with your conclusions. And having you in this building has made this place work better. It keeps us honest, it makes us work harder. You have made us think about how we are doing what we do and whether or not we’re able to deliver on what’s been requested by our constituents. And for example, every time you’ve asked why haven’t you cured Ebola yet or why is there still that hole in the Gulf, it has given me the ability to go back and say, “Will you get this solved before the next press conference?” (Laughter)

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.

Farewell to the White House press corps. So America needs you and our democracy needs you. We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress. And so my hope is is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us, to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves and to push this country to be the best version of itself.

I have no doubt that you will do so, I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work, rather than always the subject of it. I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.

It is true that behind closed doors, I curse more than I do publicly… (Laughter)

… and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does, but at my core, I think we’re going to be OK. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it and not take it for granted and I know that you will help us do that. Thank you very much, Press Corps, good luck.

Thank you very much, press corps. Good luck. [AFP/Getty]

Thank you very much, press corps. Good luck. [AFP/Getty]

Full transcript | New York Times


Will Obama’s govt stand by Malaysian democracy?

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In anticipation of the Anwar Ibrahim sex trial verdict expected today, the Washington Post made a half-hearted attempt at pressuring the United States to punish the Najib Razak government if it thwarts Malaysia’s growth towards greater democracy.

But the Post’s editorial is unlikely to have much impact on the US establishment.

When push comes to shove, the lofty ideals of “truth, justice and the American way” will get short shrift from a US government that, like any other government elsewhere, will be more concerned with its own interests.

And an America that is retreating into self-protection, as announced in Barack Obama’s new defence strategy, is more likely to be concerned with safe passage through the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca than with safe passage of Malaysian democracy or Anwar Ibrahim’s dire straits.

Malaysians must keep in mind that throughout his two decades of persecution Anwar was continually labelled an American agent bent on Malaysia’s destruction — but that it was his chief persecutor Mahathir Mohamad who secretly opened the doors to the US military (including SEALS, Marines and the Seventh Fleet).

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Barack Hussein Obama II was born in the USA. Absolutely true

And that’s what it says in the birth certificate

Barack Hussein Obama was not born in the USA. Absolutely true

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Barack Hussein Obama was NOT born in the USA. Absolutely true.

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News in context, by Obama

Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it’s paid for, is really a challenge. But it’s something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy.

I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.

What I hope is that people start understanding if you’re getting your newspaper over the Internet, that’s not free and there’s got to be a way to find a business model that supports that.

Barack Obama, president of the United States
talking in the Oval Office with reporters from the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday