Obama quips: “I’m always on the left”

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In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama welcomed his successor to the White House — and offered up a little self-deprecating humor on his way out. As the Obamas and the Trumps formed up for a photo spray, the outgoing president joked, “I’m always on the left.” Via our old friend and former colleague Larry O’Connor, it’s a telling look at the traditions of the transfer of power:

This came of a piece with the greeting Obama gave the Trumps when they arrived earlier, too. Obama seemed genuinely enthusiastic to greet Trump and put him at ease:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome President-elect Trump and future First Lady Melania Trump to the White House. pic.twitter.com/umxRiHtnL0

— ABC News (@ABC) January 20, 2017

I remarked about this on Twitter, but it’s worth stating here too. When it came to handling the public and ceremonial transition of power, Barack and Michelle Obama performed with grace and class. Of course, that is our expectation, but it can be done with varying degrees of commitment and enthusiasm. Obama has, for the main, handled it admirably — even while still engaging sharply in the political realm.

In fact, the outgoing president seemed almost joyful over the last couple of days. He told the press in his last conference that everything was going to be okay, rather than dwell on the sharp change in direction to come in the next administration. Today, Obama seemed even more cheery and gracious, appearing to enjoy the last ceremonial duties of his office. One gets the impression that Obama won’t miss being in the White House, and especially not nearly as much as the Clintons made it obvious they would sixteen years ago today.

Of course, that hardly means that Obama will be a shrinking violet in the political world after today, or follow George W. Bush’s example in keeping quiet about his successor, but it does suggest that the Obamas have had enough of politics at this level. The outgoing president seems happy today to be moving on to the next chapter in his life, and to set an example of grace and dignity while doing so. Kudos.

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