On a handful of occasions, former President Barack Obama has spoken out, carefully and judiciously, when Donald Trump has pursued policies that put “our core values” at stake, at least as far as the Democrat is concerned. In each instance, however, Obama has gone out of his way to avoid mentioning his successor by name.
But as a rule, when the former president shares his thoughts on major political developments, it’s not difficult to read between the lines.
Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday laid out a progressive vision for the future in direct rebuke to what he called the “politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment” that have taken hold around the world.
In remarks honoring the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s birth, delivered in South Africa a day after President Donald Trump was roundly criticized for cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama denounced creeping authoritarianism and warned against “strongman politics” practiced by leaders who ignore facts and “seek to undermine every institution … that gives democracy meaning.”
Among other things, the former American president touted the importance of international cooperation, lamented the prevalence of “racial nationalism,” denounced the fact that the “free press is under attack,” and condemned immigration policies “based on race, or ethnicity, or religion.”
Obama went on to say, “Those who traffic in absolutes when it comes to policy, whether it’s on the left or the right, they make democracy unworkable. You can’t expect to get 100 percent of what you want all the time; sometimes, you have to compromise. That doesn’t mean abandoning your principles, but instead it means holding on to those principles and then having the confidence that they’re going to stand up to a serious democratic debate. That’s how America’s founders intended our system to work – that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and proof it would be possible to arrive at a basis for common ground.
“And I should add for this to work, we have to actually believe in an objective reality. This is another one of these things that I didn’t have to lecture about. You have to believe in facts. Without facts, there is no basis for cooperation….. Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up.”
Soon after taking office, Donald Trump said of his predecessor, “I was tough on him, he was tough on me, and I like him, he likes me. I think he likes me. I mean, you’re going to have to ask him, but I think he likes me.” The Republican president added, “I don’t know if he’ll admit this, but he likes me.”
I’m obviously not in a position to speak for Obama, but I have a strong hunch Trump is mistaken.