The expectation of an outgoing President is that he (or she) will quietly maintain a low profile and not interfere with his successors agenda. Some left wing critics have already been critical of President-elect Trump with reminders that we only have “one president at a time.” Their insinuation is that Trump is overstepping boundaries by involving himself in debates while Obama is still in office. Their “one president at a time” concern is going to evaporate on January 20th though because they won’t want to be critical of Barack Obama who won’t follow tradition and will probably be the worst former President ever…at least in recent memory.
Reason 1: He’s Barack Obama.
Since Donald Trump began dominating the headlines with his bombast, it has been easier for Obama to pretend like he is the adult in the room but make no mistake, Obama is every bit as thin-skinned and narcissistic as Trump. He is just less prone to vent his spleen in public. Trump’s narcissism manifests itself like a spoiled and cranky toddler while Obama’s takes the form of a sullen teenager who thinks all adults are stupid. Both are equally self absorbed though.His failures are the fault of Fox News and people not smart enough to understand the brilliance of his ideas. Obama will not allow Trump, a Republican Congress, and right leaning media to define his legacy without a fight.
Reason 2: Obamacare.
The legislation was given his name as a pejorative but he took ownership of it. Now that Republicans are actually in a position to get rid of Obamacare, there is no way Obama will be able to remain silent. The erroneously named “Affordable Care Act” is routinely identified as his signature accomplishment. The Democrats dishonestly sold it, passed it in an underhanded, hyper-partisan rush, and implemented it in a colossal cluster-foxtrot, but it is Obama’s legacy and he intends to defend it. The President who answered Republican concerns with “The election is over,” will not be able to accept his own advice.
Barack Obama won’t worry himself over policy changes regarding transgender bathrooms, illegal immigration, national security, or even environmental protection, but there is no way he will quietly stand by and watch Republicans tear down Obamacare.
Reason 3: He’s not leaving town.
After he leaves office, Obama isn’t leaving Washington, DC. The Obama’s have rented a mansion from former Clinton administration spokesman Joe Lockhart The stated reason is to allow daughter Sasha to graduate high school before moving. That may be a benefit to his decision to stay in DC but that is not the real reason. The real reason is that he’s not leaving the battlefield. He will be a constant presence on Sunday talk shows and will be a key figure in coordinating Democrat and media efforts to thwart the Republican majority’s agenda.
Reason 4: Tradition doesn’t matter anymore (at least not for the immediate future).
There will be no media narrative about how unseemly it is for a ex-president to engage in public debate with a sitting one. That sort of thing happens when former Vice President Dick Cheney points out Obama’s national security mistakes. Remaining quiet during Barack Obama’s presidency was probably one of the most difficult things George W. Bush ever had to do, but he has some class and he values tradition. In the fallout of 2016 though, tradition isn’t going to be a strong enough incentive for Obama to hold his tongue. The entire 2016 election cycle was an unpredictable break from tradition. Donald Trump’s transition has been largely untraditional and his presidency will likely be equally unique. Any attempt to cite tradition to rebuke Obama will be easily parried in the coming chaos.
Obama’s presence in DC will likely resemble a government in exile at times. Watch for reporters to seek his opinion on virtually every move President Trump or the Republican Congress makes. He may defer to answer at times to maintain appearances but when it comes to his healthcare monstrosity, he won’t hold back. Many conservatives are talking about how wonderful it will finally be to be rid of Obama after January 20th. I think they are going to have to wait a while longer before he actually goes away.