President Obama offered his would-be successors a piece of advice on Tuesday, suggesting they might have to eat their words from the campaign trail if they ever actually end up in the White House.
“One of the things you find is when you're in this job,” he said, is that “you think about it differently than when you're just running for the job.”
In a news conference wrapping up his participation in the massive United Nations summit on climate change in Paris, Obama warned that the U.S. president can’t adopt a parochial view in the fight against global warming.
“American leadership involves not just playing to American constituency back home,” Obama said. As president, he went on, “you now are in fact at the center of what happens around the world. And that your credibility and America's ability to influence events depends on taking seriously what other countries care about.”
Though he didn’t reference the recent comments of Republican presidential candidates in particular, he did seem aware of rhetoric from the GOP field on the subject of climate change.
Donald Trump said this week that Obama’s assertions about the climate threat are among the “dumbest statements” in politics. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie thinks Obama puts too high a priority on fighting global warming, arguing on NBC on Tuesday that the president should focus more on “the climate right now between people and their government.” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida echoed the sentiment.
But speaking with reporters before his departure from Paris, Obama suggested that a GOP president might find himself or herself at odds with the wider world on the subject of carbon emissions.
“Whoever is the next president of the United States, if they come in and they suggest somehow that that global consensus, not just 99.5% of scientists and experts, but 99% of world leaders, think this is really important,” he said. “The president of the United States is going to need to think this is really important. And that's why it's important for us to not project what's being said on a campaign trail but to do what's right and make the case.”
That said, Obama predicted that it won't be a Republican president trying to address these issues in 2017.
“I'm anticipating a Democrat succeeding me,” Obama said. “I’m confident in the wisdom of the America people on that front.”