President Barack Obama is not likely to sit idly by if President Donald Trump attempts to fulfill the more notorious and nefarious promises made during his campaign. Obama devoted his presidency to improving policies, domestic and international, social, economic, and environmental. He has admitted to his administration’s weaknesses in marketing its achievements, but is rightly proud of his stewardship, particularly with respect to the economy. The public seems to agree, for it is sending Obama off to retirement with high approval ratings. But we can bet that he will not go quietly into the night, as is the tradition of retired American presidents, because the country is in political crisis every bit as dangerous as the economic one he inherited. Obama knows this; he understands the “fierce urgency of now.” We can bet that he will eventually break with tradition to continue to serve his country, to defend his most important policies, and to deter the worst excesses of Trump.
Some in the GOP believe that Obama will serve as something of a punching bag for Trump going forward that will enable his policies. This is GOP hubris and Trump, with better instincts, seems to be having none of this. His first meeting with President Obama clearly cowed him into an unctuous diplomatic graciousness. There is peace, for now, between these two men as Trump goes about the business of assembling his cabinet. Obama is helping Trump to get a feel for the scope and scale of the job he won. We can all wonder what shots Obama has fired across the president elect’s bow.
But there will be bad blood, eventually, once Trump and the GOP Congress start to craft dangerous policies that threaten to harm America and its most vulnerable minorities. Trump is already beating the deportation drum. Sanders, Warren, Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Biden as fighting generals, will be a formidable cadre, speaking and organizing the opposition into civil disobedience, marches, and, eventually, the ballot box.
Obama will be the linchpin of this fight. This is dangerous for Trump because no Democrat can approach his eloquence and fire when unshackled from high office. If you doubt this, review his 2008 campaign speeches. No other Democrat has his pen or sober reasoning. If you doubt this, re-read his Nobel speech, his Dreams from My Father, or check out any of the long interviews he has recently given on television or in print. He can, if necessary, command the media, Trump-like, if you will.
His retreat from politics is probably on hold now. We can expect Obama to be patient, strategic, as is his way. Others will lead charges into the canons. But make no mistake, as he likes to say, he himself will be the hardest hitting cavalry general. Stay with us, Mr. President, stay with us.