Trump privately asked Obama how he got high approval ratings, book says

Donald Trump Barack Obama
President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
  • Trump asked Obama how he kept his approval ratings high in 2016, according to a forthcoming book by NYT's Maggie Haberman.

  • Trump posed the question when the two men first met in the Oval Office after he won the 2016 election.

  • Trump publicly skewered Obama but was privately fixated with his popularity and achievements.

Shortly after Donald Trump won the 2016 US election, he asked then-President Barack Obama how he managed to keep high approval ratings.

That's according to "Confidence Man," a forthcoming book by The New York Times' Maggie Haberman, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

Trump asked Obama about his approval ratings the first time the two of them met in the Oval Office after Trump clinched his 2016 election victory, according to Haberman. The meeting came after both men lobbed harsh insults at one another on the campaign trail, with Obama calling Trump unfit for the presidency and Trump spreading the racist birther conspiracy theory about Obama and accusing him of being soft on terrorism.

But Trump's demeanor changed when he met with Obama in the Oval Office, according to the journalist Jonathan Karl's memoir, "Front Row at the Trump Show."

"I was immediately struck by Trump's body language," Karl wrote. "I was seeing a side of him I had never seen. He seemed, believe it or not, humbled."

Indeed, Trump said after the meeting that he had "great respect" for Obama, called him a "very good man," and said he looked forward to seeking Obama's "counsel" in the future. Obama also struck a more conciliatory tone toward Trump, saying after Trump won that he would not publicly attack his successor.

But any goodwill between the two men was short-lived. In the years after he took office, Trump accused Obama of having Trump Tower wiretapped, complained about Obama winning the Nobel Prize, falsely claimed that his inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama's, and became obsessed with overturning his predecessor's key achievements, including the Affordable Care Act, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Obama, meanwhile, refrained from publicly attacking Trump but didn't mince words when talking about the 45th president in private, calling him a "racist pig," a "madman," and a "corrupt motherfucker." That's according to the journalist Edward-Isaac Dovere's book, "Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Donald Trump."

Shortly after Trump beat Clinton in the 2016 election, Obama's approval rating rocketed its highest level in seven years, according to a CNN poll released two weeks after Election Day 2016. He left office on a high note as well, with a majority of voters — 53% — approving of the job he did as president, per a Politico/Morning Consult poll taken in January 2017.

Trump left office with record low approval ratings. As he prepared to exit the White House, Gallup found that just 34% of Americans approved of his job performance, and his average approval rating was lower than that of any of his predecessors since Gallup began its survey in 1940.

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