The very day I published a column questioning how Barack Obama could, in good conscience, turn over the reins of power to Donald Trump Jan. 20, 2017, his White House spokesman marched out in a press conference to tell reporters that the outgoing president was committed to a smooth transition as “one of his top goals.
I raised the question because of the accusations Obama had made about Trump just a day before:
- He said Trump would not abide by “norms and rules and common sense.”
- He questioned whether he would “observe basic decency” should he reach the Oval Office.
- He said he would have been disappointed to lose the elections of 2008 and 2012, but never doubted whether his rivals in those elections, John McCain and Mitt Romney, could function as president or had the knowledge to make government work. “That’s not the situation here,” he added.
- He added Trump “doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding, to occupy the most powerful position in the world.”
- He said he was “woefully unprepared to do this job.”
- Obama said Trump lacked knowledge about Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia.
Nevertheless, press secretary Josh Earnest insisted: “I think what we’re planning for right now is a smooth transition, and that’s the responsible step that you would expect the commander in chief to undertake.”
He cited the welcome assistance President George W. Bush offered Obama when he took office, something for which Obama has praised his predecessor.
“The president aspires to meet if not exceed that very high standard that was set by the Bush White House,” Earnest said.
According to the White House, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has already called both presidential campaigns, to prepare for one of them to assume office.
All very reassuring – as far as it goes.
But it raises the question: Is Obama being disingenuous about his strong assertions against Trump? After all, if he truly believes Trump to be disqualified, how, in good conscience, could he turn over the levers of power to him without question, without consultation with the Congress, without exploring the options? If he truly believes Trump will not abide by the norms and rules of common sense, observe basic decency, has insufficient knowledge for the job, is woefully unprepared, doesn’t have the judgment, temperament and understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world, etc., why would he do that?
Perhaps, deep down in his heart, Obama knows Trump is qualified – and that his only reservation about the candidate is the striking policy differences. Perhaps, this is an admission by Obama that his harsh, unprecedented attacks on the nominee of the Republican Party was simply rhetorical overkill of the kind we are all too familiar with when it comes to Obama.
But, when it comes to a complete lack of understanding of and commitment to the plain language of the Constitution, Obama takes a backseat to no president in U.S. history.
Therefore, my original concern remains about what Obama might do in January should Trump win.
From our experience with Obama over the last eight years, he plays to win. He plays for keeps. He puts his political agenda ahead of everything else. He believes he and he alone knows what’s best for the country. He thinks all opposition is morally bankrupt. He sees the Constitution as a “living document” that is subject to interpretation only by people who agree with him. He has been equivocal in the past about what he can do as president under the rule of law and what he can’t do.
So the question of what Obama might do in January remains a “living question.”
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