Obama: Trump was a 'change candidate'

Obama: Trump was a 'change candidate'
© Courtesy '60 Minutes'

President Obama called President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE a "change candidate" in his final interview with "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night. 

Obama was asked by host Steve Kroft if he thinks anybody can change Washington.

"I think the American people can change Washington," Obama said.

"But I think that it is not going to change, because somebody from on high directs that change."

The president said that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are "motivated by all kinds of issues," including reelection.


"They're sincerely interested in the economy, in terrorism, in social issues," he said.

"But the one overriding thing they're interested in is getting reelected. And if-- they think that it's harder for them to get reelected by cooperating with each other, then they won't cooperate."

The president also said the structure of the country's political system can, at times, make it a challenge to get things done.

In the first two years of his presidency, Obama said his administration was very productive.

"But to sustain a governing majority, that requires an ability for Republicans and Democrats to find some common ground," Obama said.

"And right now, the structure of the system is such where it makes it really hard for people to work together."

Still, Obama said he thinks the democratic system is "stable."

"Because the framers, in their wisdom, designed the system so that power's pretty disbursed," he said.

The country still works even when Washington is "dysfunctional," he said.
"But the-- the problem is is that, over time, big pieces of business that have to get done-- without leadership from Washington-- don't get done," he said.
Obama said many things contributed to people losing confidence in the country's existing institutions. He added that, at least on the Democratic side, the party needs to do more to strengthen its grassroots networks.

He also offered some compliments to Trump, saying the president-elect was able to tap into people's grievances.

"And he has a talent for making a connection with his supporters," Obama said, "that overrode some of the traditional benchmarks of how you'd run a campaign or conduct yourself as-- as a presidential candidate."

But while Trump was able to run an “improvisational campaign,” Obama said, "now he’s in the process of building up an organization. And we’ll have to see how that works. And it’ll be a test, I think, for him and the people that he’s designated to be able to execute on his vision.”

But Obama warned that people shouldn't underestimate Trump. 

 "I think everybody has to acknowledge don't underestimate the guy, because he-- he's going to be 45th president of the United States. The one thing I've said to him directly, and I-- I would advise-- my Republican friends in Congress and supporters around the country, is just make sure that-- as we go forward certain norms, certain-- institutional traditions-- don't get eroded, because there's a reason they're in place.