Thursday, December 01, 2016
On Aug. 5, 2015, when President Barack Obama was making the case for the Iran nuclear deal, he journeyed uptown to American University, where decades earlier John F. Kennedy had delivered a famous address on peace and the future of nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union. Hoping to bathe himself in some of the glow of JFK, Obama framed the deal as another critical step forward in the march toward world peace. In 1963, Kennedy had offered the same sense of hope. After giving his American University speech, Obama met with a handful of foreign policy reporters and columnists, this reporter among them, for a 90-minute roundtable on Iran policy and whatever else those in the room wanted to bring up. Unlike similar sessions he has held over the years, this one was fully on the record.
Looking back on it, though, the entire session is revealing not for the news that it made in the moment, but as a window into how Obama thinks about foreign policy and policy in general, as well as how he engages in long conversations with reporters that go deep into the weeds.
On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump met with reporters and editors at The New York Times for a briefing that was on the record, as well as a separate one that was off. In his public remarks, Trump flipped his positions on everything from torture to climate change to prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Following the Obama interview in 2015, the White House sent around a transcript of that conversation, which was never published. But to give readers a sense of what Obama is like in a relaxed atmosphere, we're publishing it below.
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