With just two days remaining in his presidency, Barack Obama hosted a White House press conference in which he said he expected the new administration and Congress to make their own determinations about the nation’s direction, and by and large, he intended to stay out of it.
But as regular readers know, Obama also acknowledged at the time that there might be exceptions to the rule. “There’s a difference,” the outgoing president explained, “between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.”
Take now, for example. The former Democratic president issued a statement this afternoon that made no direct references to Donald Trump or his policy of separating immigrant children from their families, but Obama’s point was hardly subtle.
“[T]o watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?
“Our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others, to say ‘there but for the grace of God go I,’ is part of what makes us human. And to find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant – to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time – is part of what makes us American. After all, almost all of us were strangers once, too. Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, how our last names sound, or the way we worship. To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better.
“That’s the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it’s something we have to protect for the generations to come. But we have to do more than say ‘this isn’t who we are.’ We have to prove it – through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes.”
One gets the sense Obama does not believe that legacy is being protected now.
For those keeping score, this is not the first time the Democratic president has spoken out in response to one of his successor’s policies. The list now includes:
* Trump’s Muslim ban;
* The Republicans’ health care crusade;
* Trump rescinding DACA and threatening Dreamers’ futures.
* and Trump rescinding the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
All things considered, I still think Obama’s been quite restrained, giving his successor a wide berth, despite the ridiculousness of the circumstances.