Like many Americans, President Barack Obama’s White House staff was stunned by Donald Trump’s upset victory last Tuesday.
In a New Yorker profile that reveals the reaction inside the White House after the election, one staffer compared the mood to “a funeral home.”
The White House was so somber that Obama and his Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough assumed the roles of “grief counselors” for the despondent staffers.
“This is not the apocalypse,” Obama reportedly told staffers. Obama later clarified to The New Yorker’s David Remnick that he won’t believe in the apocalypse until the apocalypse comes.
“I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world,” Obama told Remnick.
In an effort to lift up their spirits, Obama acknowledged the defeat and urged his staff to be cooperative as Trump transitioned into the White House:
“A lot of you are young and this is your first rodeo,” Obama told the staffers in the Oval Office, a source recalled. “For some of you, all you’ve ever known is winning. But the older people here, we have known loss. And this stings. This hurts.” It’s easy to be hopeful when things are going well, he went on, but when you need to be hopeful is when things are at their worst. That line reminded one senior aide of Obama’s last speech to the U.N. General Assembly, a defence of the liberal order that was wilfully optimistic at a moment when illiberal currents were coursing all over the world. Now, in his own home, Obama sought to buck his people up and get them into a professional frame of mind. He praised the Bush Administration, which he had criticised so sharply throughout the 2008 campaign, for the generosity and efficiency with which its people had assisted in the transition, and he told his people to do the same, to be “gracious hosts” of the most well-known address in the United States. He asked them to make sure that even their body language radiated a sense of pride and coöperation.
While campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Obama repeatedly claimed that electing Donald Trump would essentially erase the progress of his administration.
In the profile, Obama acknowledged that he did not underestimate Trump’s ascension, despite many being confident that Trump’s controversial campaign rhetoric would eventually lead to his political downfall.
“Donald Trump is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years. What surprised me was the degree to which those tactics and rhetoric completely jumped the rails,” Obama said.
Read the full New Yorker profile here.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.