The Democrats took a shellacking on Election Day. As Obama’s presidency nears its final days, he has undoubtedly been reminded that he is walking away from a Democratic Party that lost control of the House, Senate, White House, and majority of gubernatorial seats – all occurring under his leadership.
Speaking Sunday in Lima, Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Obama was bluntly asked by a reporter if he had any worries of being the last Democratic president.
“Well, no I’m not worried about being the last Democratic president. Not even for a while. I say that not being cute. The Democratic nominee won the popular vote. Obviously this is an extremely competitive race and I expect that future races will be competitive as well,” the outgoing president replied.
When asked how he feels Democrats should collaborate with a future president Trump, Obama took a swipe at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying they should not do what he did when Obama was elected – a reference to a comment McConnell made in 2010. The Kentucky Senator said the single most important goal for his conference is to make Obama a one-term president.
It’s doubtful the president was actually suggesting Democrats on Capitol Hill work to re-elect Trump in 2020, but his response stokes more speculation on whether Obama will be politically active post-presidency.
In that same press conference, Obama refused to definitively say whether he would uphold the tradition of presidents refraining from public criticism of their successors.
“I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance,” Obama said, but “as an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle but go to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, then I’ll examine it when it comes.”
Let it be known, Obama made his career off blaming President George W. Bush for every problem under the sun. Even after four years of holding the White House, blaming his predecessor was a main theme of his re-election strategy. Throughout all this, President Bush refused to criticize Obama. He explained in interviews that he felt it wasn’t his place to criticize his successor.
Obama has been working a charm offensive, more or less, amid Trump’s transition process. During their White House meeting, Obama and Trump spoke at length on many issues. Obama implored Trump not to repeal Obamacare, but simply look for amendments.
While this strategy from the outgoing president may be necessary for now, the jury is still out on what will happen when Trump actually gets to work on gutting his big-government legacy. Speaker Ryan and Senate Leader McConnell have already huddled with Trump on a 100-day agenda.
Don’t expect Obama to follow the precedent set by George W. Bush.