IT has never been clear why US President Donald Trump appears to so despise his elegant predecessor. Perhaps it’s because Barack Obama so epitomises everything Trump isn’t. Obama was inspirationally articulate. His election caused the United States to soar. Americans have seldom felt so good about themselves in recent decades as when they chose him to lead the nation. In stark contrast, for many Americans, Trump’s shocking victory in 2016 led to a profound despair from which they have not yet recovered.
Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. World leaders, excepting possibly Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, cannot witness soon enough Trump’s departure from the world stage. Some feel the current president is simply jealous of the high regard in which his predecessor is still held in world popular opinion.
No one with compassion can favour Trump over his predecessor. Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, that aims to reduce some of the entrenched, institutionalised bias against poor people in America, is completely antithetical to the greedy pro-rich policies Trump has favoured.
There are those who feel the reason for Trump’s disregard is much more simple. They believe Trump is, at his core, racist. Even before his election, Trump is reported to have been routinely discriminatory toward various minorities, but toward blacks in particular.
Trump’s ignorant and shameful response to the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year did seem to reveal at the very least a significant insensitivity toward matters of race. And who can forget the nonsense of birtherism that Trump so enthusiastically championed?
No national figure since the reprehensible Alabama governor George Wallace has so openly appeared to sympathise with and pander to the most base levels of American society as has the current president.
From his inauguration, when Trump began immediately to lie to the American people in claiming his crowds dwarfed Obama’s inaugural throngs, Trump has sought to compete against Obama. It is almost as if he knows he will fall short in virtually any comparison, so why not attack Obama and his record at every turn?
In America’s ‘darkness’
As if to underscore his virtue in the face of such gratuitous assaults, Obama has adopted a markedly restrained posture since reluctantly turning over the keys to the White House. Such had been the practice for former presidents for many years. Obama’s own predecessor, George W Bush, very rarely rose to criticise Obama even as his Republican party savaged him at every turn. Bill Clinton and George HW Bush formed a respectful alliance around issues both strongly supported.
Now, though, as the pivotal November elections loom large on the American political horizon less than eight weeks away, Obama appears to have emerged from his self-imposed political silence.
In a recent speech, Obama likened Trump to foreign demagogues who pursue “politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment” while plundering the countries they lead. Obama said America is in a period of “darkness,” but that its moral slough did not originate with Trump. “He is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama said.
The former president’s sarcastic side also emerged. In discussing the Trump administration’s calamitously poor response to Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico and parts of The Bahamas, Obama said “I know Republicans favour less government. But government should at least make sure 3,000 Americans don’t die in a hurricane.”
Some observers feel that Trump was impelled into politics by the humiliation he suffered at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2011. Then, President Obama ridiculed him to his face. “Donald Trump is here tonight. I’m sure no one is happier than Donald to put this birth certificate matter to rest. That’s because he can now get back to issues that really matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing?”
Host Seth Myers piled on at the same dinner. “I hear Trump will run as a Republican for president,” Myers deadpanned. “I assumed he was running as a joke.” Later, Myers noted Trump’s comments that he had good relations with blacks. “Only true if it was a white family named Black,” Myers said. Trump looked ashen.
November’s elections in the US will give us a hint as to who will have the last laugh.