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."
The Democratic president probably couldn't have predicted at the time just how frequently he'd find these core values in jeopardy. I've been keeping a casual tally on instances in which Obama has spoken up forcefully against Donald Trump's agenda, noting instances in which the former president called out his successor for separating immigrant children from their families, trying to impose a Muslim ban, trying to strip millions of families of their health care benefits, rescinding DACA protections for Dreamers, and abandoning the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
Evidently, Trump taking steps to sabotage his own country's Postal Service also counts as an instance in which core values are at stake. NBC News reported this morning:
Former President Barack Obama, in an interview released Friday, slammed President Donald Trump for trying to "actively kneecap the Postal Service" to affect mail-in voting in the 2020 election and urged lawmakers and citizens to take actions to "protect the integrity" of the election.
Indeed, it was just yesterday when the incumbent Republican president effectively admitted, on national television, that he's trying to undermine the USPS in order to prevent Americans from casting mail-in ballots. (A day earlier, Trump requested an absentee ballot from his adopted home state of Florida so that he can vote by mail.)
It was against this backdrop that Obama, appearing on David Plouffe's podcast, acknowledged the many years in which Republicans have tried to impose voting restrictions, though he added that Trump's efforts seem "unique to modern history."
"What we've never seen before is a president say, 'I'm going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it.' That's sort of unheard of, right?" Obama said. "And we also have not had an election in the midst of a pandemic that is still deadly and killing a lot of people."
"So in that circumstance, the thing I'm most worried about is ... how do we protect the integrity of the election process? How do we make sure that people's votes are counted? How do we police and monitor how state officials are setting up polling places and ensuring that every vote is counted?" he continued.
On Twitter, where Obama promoted his appearance on Plouffe's podcast, the former president added, "Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open. They can't be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus."
I'll confess that until very recently, I was skeptical that the Postal Service could become one of the dominant issues in contemporary politics. Trump managed to make it happen through his brazenness.