I must admit to harboring some deeply mixed — and often conflicting — feelings about former President Obama’s return to the public arena.
The ex-president today went to Champaign, Ill., and singled out his successor, Donald J. Trump, by name. He was directly critical of the president, saying that Trump isn’t the “cause” of what ails the nation, but is a “symptom” of it.
Why the mixed feelings?
I have stated already that I support the post-presidency profiles adopted by George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. That is, they chose to remain silent while their immediate successors — Bill Clinton and Obama, respectively — assumed the reins of power. It was Bush 41 who said that he had had his time in the spotlight, and it was time to get out of the way. Bush 43 said essentially the same way when he moved aside after the 2008 election.
However, these are different times. We are now governed by a profoundly different sort of president. Donald Trump has continually blasted the policies of his immediate predecessor and spoken untruths about the impact of Obama’s presidency on the nation he led for eight years.
And as Barack Obama said today, Trump has refused to stand up to (a) Russian hackers who attacked our electoral system in 2016, (b) Nazis and other white supremacists and (c) bullies of any stripe.
So, he’s back in the arena. Obama likely is going to energize to disparate wings of the political spectrum: those who oppose the current president’s policies and those who support them.
I also want to join others who’ve said already that it’s a joy to listen to a former president who can speak to the nation in cogent, declarative sentences. Barack Obama’s eloquence stands in the starkest consequence to the mindless rambling we hear from his immediate successor.
Here are Obama’s remarks. Spoiler alert: It’s a long video. If you have the time, listen to it.