Obama Doubts Trump Can Govern Via Twitter, Admits Some Missteps

President Barack Obama used his final national television interview to express doubts that Donald Trump will be able to effectively govern by firing off tweets and offered some advice about the president-elect’s feud with the intelligence community.

In a lengthy interview that aired Sunday evening on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news program, Obama also acknowledged some mistakes — a rarity for the outgoing chief executive. Among them were missteps he made in dealing with Congress.

“I will confess that I didn’t fully appreciate the ways in which individual senators or members of Congress now are pushed to the extremes by their ... voter bases,” Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft. “I did not expect, particularly in the midst of crisis, just how severe that partisanship would be.”

Obama appeared to be referring to the financial collapse he inherited upon taking office.

When pressed on whether he delivered on his 2008 campaign trail promise to bring change to Washington, his answer was vintage Obama. He both accepted some blame, but after criticizing his political foes — and while slipping in his final-months list of what he sees as his biggest accomplishments.

“I became a lightning rod for some partisan battles,” he said. “By almost every measure, the country is significantly better off than when I came in. If you can look back and say, “The economy’s better. Our security’s better. The environment’s better. Our ... kids’ education is better … then considering all the challenges out there you should feel good.”

[(VIDEO) White House Watch: What to Watch for in Trump’s Inaugural Address]

“But I’m the first to acknowledge that I did not crack the code in terms of reducing this partisan fever,” Obama said.

The president who struggled in working with members Congress offered a dismal assessment of their collective ability to get things done.

“I think the American people can change Washington. But I ... think that it is not going to change, because somebody from on high directs that change,” he said. “Members of Congress — on both sides of the aisle — are motivated by all kinds of issues. They’re sincerely interested in the economy, in terrorism, in social issues. But the one overriding thing they’re interested in is getting re-elected.

“If they think that it’s harder for them to get reelected by cooperating with each other, then they won’t cooperate,” said Obama, a former senator.

Notably, Obama singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to build and hold what amounted to a blockade that prevented Obama from filling the Supreme Court seat vacated by Antonin Scalia’s death last February. He said the fact that the Kentucky Republican did so without his party being punished at the polls is “a sign that the incentives for politicians in this town to be so sharply partisan have gotten so out of hand that — that we’re weakening ourselves.”

Obama also weighed in on Trump, though his comments were not as critical as others he and his top spokesman have made in recent weeks. For instance, the outgoing president wondered aloud if his successor’s use of social media as his primary means of communicating with the American people — and Congress — will translate into a successful and productive presidency.

“We are moving into an era where a lot of people get their information through tweets and sound bites and some headline that comes over their phone. And I think that there’s a power in that,” Obama said. “There’s also a danger, what generates a headline or stirs up a controversy and gets attention isn’t the same as the process required to actually solve the problem.”

Trump has waged a Twitter-based public battle with the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies over their conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin — whom the president-elect continues to court and praise in his public comments and tweets — ordered a hacking operation to intervene in the American election.

[White House Sees McAuliffe Playing Big Role for Dems in Post-Obama Era]

Asked about the wisdom of an incoming commander in chief taking on his entire intel apparatus, on which all presidents depend to help them make complex national security and foreign policy decisions, Obama had some advice for Trump.

“You’re not going to be able to make good decisions without building some relationship of trust between yourself and that community,” he said.

Obama sat down with Kroft on Monday afternoon at the White House to tape the interview. Six days later, the Capitol was buzzing with rare Sunday activities during a full dress rehearsal.

Military teams marched to the steady beats of their drum corps along the East Front of the Capitol and then down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Hours later, on the West Front side, a military stand-in for Trump took the Oath of Office, even mimicking the 45th president at one point by giving a double thumbs up.

Inside the Capitol, inaugural staffers scrambled from one side of the building to the other. They dodged stands holding signage that will help direct traffic on Friday, when Obama will accompany Trump up Pennsylvania Avenue to be sworn in. Members of the Marine Band joked with Capitol Police officers near the very door Trump will enter the massive West Front inaugural platform.

Staffers for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies consulted binders and called their “command center” when asked how certain things would work on Friday. One veteran JCCIC staffer acknowledged the Sunday scene appeared a bit disorganized, but promised things will run smoothly on Inauguration Day.

“Rehearsal day,” she quipped, “is always mostly about how the sausage is made.”

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For a guy who didn’t want to be in the Senate anymore last year, Florida’s Marco Rubio is certainly making a tall glass of lemonade out of the lemons he got running for president in 2016. With a single hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Rubio went from being the Republican Most Likely to Miss a Vote, a distinction he earned on his way to losing the GOP nomination, to being the Republican Most Likely to Hold Donald Trump’s Feet to the Fire. It’s a role that holds both risks and immense power. That, for Rubio, could be more important than anything.

The hearing, of course, was to consider the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s secretary of State. Although Sen. Jeff Sessions’ hearing to be attorney general was expected to have the most fireworks of the week, the Tillerson hearing went off-track as soon as Rubio began grilling the former Exxon Mobil CEO about the reams of accusations against Russian President Vladimir Putin of widespread corruption and human rights abuses.

“Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?” Rubio asked Tillerson. “I would not use that term,” Tillerson said, carefully. “Are you aware that people who oppose Vladimir Putin wind up dead all over the world? Poisoned, shot in the back of the head? Do you think that was coincidental?” Rubio later followed up. When Tillerson said he’d need more information to make up his mind about Putin, whom Tillerson knows well enough to receive an award from, Rubio concluded, “None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson, these people are dead.”

Critics of Rubio’s have panned his performance as political theater, but the single swing vote he holds on the committee deciding Tillerson’s fate is very real. Real, too, were Tillerson’s answers to Rubio and others’ questions, when he seemed to still be a multinational CEO hunting oil and profits, and less a potential diplomat advancing American values.

Rubio wouldn’t say after the hearing if he would support Tillerson or not. It’s possible that he could extract some concessions from the incoming administration to vote for Tillerson, or he may oppose him altogether. But the fact that a question exists at all marks a new era for Rubio in the Senate.

[Poll: Half of Florida Voters Think Rubio Planning 2020 Presidential Bid]

It’s a long way from October 2015, when a clearly frustrated freshman Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he had amassed the worst voting record in the Senate and was running for president because being in the Senate just didn’t matter much anymore. “I’m not missing votes because I’m on vacation,” he said. “I’m running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again.”

It turns out that Rubio didn’t have to win the White House for his vote to matter again. With an 11-10 split on the Foreign Relations Committee between Republicans and Democrats, Rubio holds the crown jewel of Trump’s Cabinet in his hands. Suddenly, the man Trump derided as “Little Marco” isn’t so little anymore.

And he also isn’t alone. More than a few rising Republican voices in Washington seem poised to speak out against Trump when they oppose him or stand up to Trump when they disagree, which many will. On the House side, conservative Republicans have already passed the REINS Act to require congressional approval for any regulation that costs more than $100 million, which is nearly all of them. That means, unlike the days of the Obama phone and pen going around Congress, President Trump will have to get Congress’ permission to write almost any new regulation.

On the Senate side, several of Rubio’s fellow sophomores from the Tea Party class of 2010 could give Trump headaches when the promises they’ve made to their constituents diverge from the promises Trump’s been making, especially when it comes to federal spending.

[Senate Advances Budget Resolution With Obamacare Repeal]

On Thursday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul voted against the budget resolution setting up the Obamacare repeal because he insisted a replacement exist for the health care bill first. Sen. Pat Toomey won re-election in Pennsylvania last year, outperforming Trump by a point, and will remain a fiscal hawk over Trump even when he just wants Republicans to let him pass his bills though Congress. Sen. Mike Lee outperformed Trump by more than 20 points in his home state of Utah last November, and was one of the few Republicans to call for Trump to drop out of the presidential race after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out.

And of course, there’s Lee’s best friend, Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texan’s own re-election race in 2018 may keep Cruz close to the GOP tent during Trump’s first two years. But Cruz also made up with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday, even after Graham said Cruz should be murdered on the Senate floor, so it seems anything is still possible with Ted Cruz.

One-party rule in Washington is often full of unpleasant surprises for the president coming to town. Although he thinks the other party, in this case the Democrats, will be his opposition, the reality is almost always different. It will be members of Trump’s own party, potentially led by Rubio, Paul, Toomey and others, who will have the power, and oftentimes the incentive, to stop him in his tracks.

Rubio’s next step on the Tillerson nomination will send a message for him and other Republicans about the role they’ll play in Trump’s Washington. Will they be yes men in the Trump Party or fighters for what’s left of a conservative Republican Party? Maybe there is a way to be both at the same time.

For Rubio at least, it’s clear that 2017 is already different from the years he has spent in the Senate before. He hasn’t missed a single vote.

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