Obama to take one last flight on Air Force One as ex-president

WASHINGTON — He won't be president anymore, but Barack Obama will take one last flight on the presidential plane next week before handing it over to Donald Trump.

Outgoing presidents traditionally are allowed one final flight on the famed blue-and-white aircraft. President George W. Bush used it to fly to Midland, Texas, with his wife and family just after Obama was inaugurated.

The Obamas plan to continue living in Washington in a rented home after leaving the White House. But White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the Obamas will still leave Washington by plane shortly after Trump's inaugural ceremony.

No word yet on where they're heading.

Although the plane will be the same, technically it won't be Air Force One. That designation is used only when the sitting president is on board.

© Paul Beaty In this Oct. 9, 2016 file photo, President Obama waves while boarding Air Force One before leaving O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
Last lecture: Obama to deliver farewell address tonight in Chicago and take final flight on Air Force One before nemesis Donald Trump takes power

President Barack Obama will make one last attempt tonight to steer the country toward the policies and values at the core of his vision for America before he hands over power to nemesis Donald Trump.

In a primetime address this evening from his adopted hometown, Chicago, Obama will offer advice to the American people about the challenges that lie ahead, the White House says.

The farewell speech will only 'briefly' rehash Obama's eight-year presidency.

'The President certainly could give a long speech reciting the many accomplishments of his administration, but that’s not how he’s choosing to spend his time tomorrow night,' Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

Obama will be accompanied by wife Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

He'll deliver remarks before several thousand supporters, some of whom paid more than $300 to score tickets, at Chicago's convention center in a 9 pm Eastern and return to Washington overnight, making what is likely to be his final flight on Air Force One as president.

The 55-year-old Democratic politician will depart the Oval Office for good in 10 days, his legacy in shambles after Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote but came up short in the Electoral College.
Operating under a belief that the messenger, not the message, caused the shock loss, Obama will use the bully pulpit tonight to decry the divisive rhetoric he has commonly associated with Trump. 

The president is likely to declare, as he did on the campaign trail, that he continues 'to believe in hope' despite the outcome of the election, and he's 'still as optimistic as ever' about the nation's future.

'Progress isn't always a straight line,' he reminded his supporters in an email Monday.

He'll also talk about fairness and justice, the White House said, and the idea that 'if you work hard, you should have the opportunity to succeed regardless of what you look like, or what your last name is, or who you love.'
The president will publicly needle his successor to back away from changes to existing U.S. policy Trump forcefully campaigned on such as his border wall with Mexico.

Obama offered a final defense of his foreign policy in December. Tonight's speech will focus on 'many of the domestic policies and domestic considerations that the next President will have to carefully consider,' Earnest told reporters.
Trump campaigned against Obama's most prized accomplishments, including his health care law. Republicans in the House and the Senate are already making moves to enforce a long-standing promise to repeal it.

The next occupant of the Oval Office has also promised to reverse Obama's executive actions on immigration and force millions of illegal immigrants out of the country, though he's since softened his stance and could allow children who were relocated to the country to stay.

A proposed ban on entry into the country for residents of counties afflicted by terrorism directly conflicts with Obama's refugee policies. His administration has opened its doors to displaced Syrians, and Obama is likely to talk about America's history of inclusion in his speech tonight.

'The President believes that obviously the diversity of this country is a strength and that, for all our differences, there’s much more that unites us than separates us. And our country is stronger when we remember that principle and we draw upon those common values,' Earnest said Monday.

Obama is also likely to press for policies that rate high with Democrats but have no realistic chance of passing in a Republican-dominated Congress like equal pay, paid sick leave and a minimum wage increase.

'The President feels an obligation to talk about what he’s learned over the last eight years, what he’s learned about the country, what he’s learned about governing the country, and offer up his advice to the American people about the most effective way to confront the challenges that we see ahead,' his spokesman said. 

Obama's favorability is at 57 percent in a new Associated Press poll - putting him on par with Bill Clinton when he left office and 17 points ahead of George W. Bush.

Trump comes into office with a significantly lower approval rating than his predecessor. His December average was 43.5 percent on poll-tracking website Real Clear Politics. Obama received high marks from 72 percent of Americans in December of 2008.

Obama's high approval rating as he leaves office has bolstered White House claims that the president remains popular, even though Clinton got beat at the ballot box.

'I think that is an indication of the strong support that the American people continue to have for his agenda and for his priorities and for his message,' his spokesman told reporters yesterday.

'Now, she didn’t win, but if you’re just looking for public support for the message that President Obama was helping her communicate, it’s clear that that was a message that resonated deeply with the American people.'

The president was still working on his speech yesterday, his spokesman said, but drafts of his remarks indicate that it will be much shorter than the State of the Union addresses he's delivered to Congress around this time each year.

An ode to his extraordinary journey to White House, Obama, the nation's first black president, is returning to Illinois, where he announced his candidacy in 2007 from the steps of the Old State Capitol, mimicking Abraham Lincoln.
Obama was expected to lose to Clinton, too, but surpassed her in the Democratic primary and went on to win the White House.
Like Trump, Obama campaigned against politics as usual in Washington and promised an era of transformation.

'I know that I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change,' he said in his first speech as a candidate.

Obama hinted in an email to Democratic donors on Monday that he would revisit the themes he debuted that day tonight in Chicago.

'There are cynics who have doubted us at every step these past eight years -- who said that our desire for change was unrealistic and that our agenda was little more than a pipe dream,' Obama wrote. 'But thanks to millions of Democrats like you, we've been able to prove them wrong time and again.'

The legislative battles and elections that are ahead will be tough, he said, but Democrats will prevail if they remain 'fired up.'

Anyone could attend tonight's event at McCormick Place convention center, but tickets were snatched up quickly. Chicago's ABC7 says they were selling for as much as $5,000 on Ebay and Craigslist. Most were listed for $300 or more.

Some Obama fans were offering to trade equally unique items like tickets to the musical Hamilton. One desperate attendee successfully traded her 40-inch flat screen TV for a ticket, the news network reported.


Obama says goodbye

Popular but politically humbled, President Barack Obama says goodbye to the nation Tuesday night in a dramatic reinterpretation of a presidential farewell address.

Hoping to capitalize on a well of goodwill that's expanded in the final year of his tenure, Obama has discarded the staid Oval Office or East Room for his last formal set of remarks. Instead, he'll travel to Chicago, the city where he declared victory in 2008 and 2012, to address a sold-out crowd of ardent supporters.

The moment, conceived months ago, is meant to recall the most iconic moments of Obama's historic tenure, ones rooted in the "hope and change" message that carried the first African-American to the White House.

As he departs office leaving scores of progressive policies in place, there's ample evidence of change. But for his backers, the "hope" aspect of that original mantra is diminished by the prospects of Donald Trump's presidency.

On Tuesday, Obama aims to revive the spirits of progressives who he'd hoped to rally behind Hillary Clinton. Though his speech won't be policy-oriented or carry any direct contrasts with Trump, his message will offer a "hopeful" vision for the future, according to administration officials.

"For Michelle and me, Chicago is where it all started. It's the city that showed us the power and fundamental goodness of the American people," Obama wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday inviting supporters to view his prime-time address.
"It's easy to lose sight of that in the blizzard of our minute-to-minute Washington news cycles. But America is a story told not minute to minute, but generation to generation," he went on. "We've made America a better, stronger place for the generations that will follow. We've run our leg in a long relay of progress, knowing that our work will always be unfinished."

Obama's speech is the capstone of a months-long farewell tour, manifested in extended magazine interviews, lengthy television sit-downs, and the White House's own efforts to document the President's waning administration.
Through it all, Obama has sought to highlight the achievements of his presidency using statistics showing the country better off now than eight years ago. He's offered a rational view of Trump's election and rarely lets on to any apprehension about his future as an ex-president.

First lady Michelle Obama has offered a more candid view in a scaled-back version of her own farewell. She sat for an hour-long interview with Oprah Winfrey, frankly admitting that Democrats were now "feeling what not having hope feels like."

And she became emotional during her final set of formal remarks at the White House Friday, her voice quaking and eyes welling with tears as she told a crowd of educators: "I hope I made you proud."

The first lady's subdued but deeply felt departure stands in sharp contrast to the President's own farewell speech Tuesday. Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to view the address at McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America where Obama declared victory over Mitt Romney in 2012.

Obama has been planning his speech for months, aides said, formulating the broad themes while on vacation over the holidays in Hawaii and developing drafts starting last week.

He told aides months ago that he preferred to deliver his farewell address in his hometown, a first for a departing President. George W. Bush, unpopular and facing a financial crisis, delivered his final prime-time address in the White House East Room to a crowd of 200 supporters and aides.

Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all used the Oval Office -- a setting Obama has long spurned for formal remarks. George H.W. Bush traveled outside of Washington to West Point for a departing address after failing to secure a second term, though he didn't actually bill it as a farewell.

The tradition extends back to George Washington, who issued warnings against unchecked power and partisan entrenchment in a written address to the nation in 1796.

Like major addresses in the past, Obama is writing his speech himself, dictating passages to his chief speechwriter Cody Keenan who puts the President's words into print. Obama returns the drafts with heavy annotations, writing his changes in a tightly compressed scrawl on the margins.

The President and Keenan have gone through at least four drafts of the farewell speech, an official told CNN Tuesday.
The broad themes of the speech came together while the President was in Hawaii and he started reading a first draft on the long flight home last Sunday.

Aside from Keenan, several familiar names from the past have been involved in the drafting, including former speechwriter Jon Favreau and former senior adviser David Axelrod.

Aides expected the drafting process to extend into Tuesday before Obama departs for Chicago in the afternoon.
When he returns to Washington in the early morning hours of Wednesday, it will be Obama's 1,293rd -- and final -- flight aboard Air Force One. He'll use the presidential aircraft on Inauguration Day to depart Washington. But with only a former president aboard, it's known simply as "Special Air Mission 28000."

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