Obama: No longer on the sidelines
“No one does the cool burn quite so deftly as Barack Obama,” said Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post. Breaking with the norm of ex-presidents not criticizing their successors, Obama branded President Donald Trump “a threat to democracy” in a speech last week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This is not normal,” Obama said of the chaotic Trump presidency, calling the current president “a symptom, not the cause” of the GOP’s embrace of “the politics of division, of resentment and paranoia.” Obama may have wanted to “remain above the fray,” said Robin Abcarian in LATimes.com, but the stakes have grown far too high. Trump’s presidency has been defined by the dismantling of Obama’s “legacy piece by piece, and making racists feel safe again.” It’s about time the 44th president re-emerged to call Trump what he is—a shameless fearmonger, a bully, and a demagogue.
It’s hardly a surprise that Obama is attacking his successor, said Derek Hunter in TownHall.com. “Why should we expect anything different” from a president who spent “eight years in office whining” about his predecessor, George W. Bush? As for Obama blaming Republicans for the country’s divisions, he must have forgotten how his administration and “media cronies” smeared “everyone who dared hold a contrary opinion” as a racist. That wasn’t Obama’s only “grade-A, primo historical revisionism,” said Becket Adams in WashingtonExaminer.com. In criticizing Trump’s ugly rhetoric about the press, Obama conveniently failed to mention that he spent eight long years taking actions that were “far worse for press freedoms.” Obama’s Justice Department spied on reporters, seized phone records, and even deployed the Espionage Act of 1917 to label ex–Fox News reporter James Rosen a “criminal co-conspirator” for using a State Department contractor as a source. But hey, at least Obama was polite to reporters at press conferences.
Obama’s speech showed that he is still “one of the most skilled rhetoricians in American history,” said Matthew Yglesias in Vox.com. But he’s no longer the Democrats’ best messenger for the need for change. The ex-president won’t be on the ballot this November or in 2020, and his dominating presence on the stump only highlights Democrats’ “paucity of compelling communicators among the top leadership.” If Democrats are to woo back voters, it’s critical for them to “find leaders who aren’t Barack Obama.”