‘President Obama is not going to shy away from that dialogue simply because he’s not in office anymore…’
(Liberty Headlines) There was never any doubt that with the next presidential election approaching former President Barack Obama would increasingly emerge from the shadows.
At posh Kalorama estate, only a few miles from the White House, he has quietly held court for political hopefuls and presided over Democrats as the party’s de facto leader, emerging periodically to snipe at his successor.
Although infrequent, his petty partisan attacks have, nonetheless, broken the longstanding tradition of former chief-executives staying silent and enjoying their emeritus status with dignity.
Even presidential failures, such as Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush have successfully rehabbed their legacies and become more popular as ex-presidents than they were in the Oval Office.
Much to his disdain, though, Obama’s greatest legacy may be the election of Trump, who proceeded to dismantle many of his signature polices and reverse America’s course while facing substantial headwinds from the antagonistic leftist-media machine.
Trump’s campaign promises of “law and order” stood in stark contrast with his predecessor, who endured endless racial strife in the autumn years of his presidency, often due to his administration fanning the flames.
But the first black president in U.S. history now sees a window to rewrite his own narrative as a failure on race-relations by trying to exacerbate the crisis on Trump’s watch.
Obama is taking on an increasingly public role as the nation confronts a confluence of crises that has thrown the November election into turmoil.
On Wednesday, he held a virtual town hall event with young people to discuss policing and the civil unrest that has followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
During the program, presented by PBS, he trotted out political cronies including his “wing man,” former Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been active in fronting several political operations since taking over Obama’s former campaign arm last year.
Aides said Obama will call for turning the protests over Floyd’s death into policy change and will urge specific reforms to ensure safer policing and increased trust between communities and law enforcement.
“We’re in a political season, but our country is also at an inflection point,” said Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend and adviser to Obama. “President Obama is not going to shy away from that dialogue simply because he’s not in office anymore.”
His quasi-campaigning also offers a more direct benefit for helping to shore up the Democratic ticket, deeply bruised during the Trump years and continuing to founder under the diffident direction of Obama’s second in command, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Indeed, Obama’s long-delayed endorsement of Biden had begun to stir chatter about whether he and his wife, Michelle, had other plans to upstage Biden’s candidacy during the Democratic convention.
Obama was already beginning to emerge from political hibernation when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the U.S., killing more than 100,000 people, and the economy began to crater.
Addressing graduates of historically black colleges and universities last month, Obama landed a low-blow by sniping that the pandemic had “fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing.”
And in a nationally televised broadcast celebrating graduating high school seniors, the president—who notoriously wagged his finger that Americans needed to “eat [their] peas” by embracing more government spending during a 2011 budget impasse—said many “so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs,” do only what’s convenient and feels good.
Floyd’s death, however, has drawn a more visceral and personal reaction.
In a lengthy written statement last week, Obama said that while he understood that millions of Americans were eager to “just get back to normal” when the pandemic abates, it shouldn’t be forgotten that normal life for people of color in the U.S. involves being treated differently on account of their race.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal,’” Obama wrote.
Much as they did during his own presidency, tensions across the country have escalated further in the days since the former president’s statement.
Unlike Obama, who allowed the riots to continue with minimal police presence, Trump has endorsed crackdowns on the protests, some of which have turned violent.
Trump threatened to deploy active-duty military to the states if local officials could not get the demonstrations under control, although he appeared to be backing down from that position this week.
After taking heat for a racially insensitive gaffe only days before Floyd’s death, Biden’s campaign welcomed Obama stepping forward during this moment to help with its revisionist narrative.
“President Obama’s voice is a reminder that we used to have a president who sought to bridge our divides, and we can have one again if we elect Joe Biden,” claimed TJ Ducklo, a campaign spokesman.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press