President George W. Bush said he’d refrain from criticizing his successor. He held true to that promise – for eight years. President Obama said he’d try to honor that same tradition, practiced by presidents of both parties for generations. And he did refrain from publicly criticizing President Trump – for ten days. He can’t help himself. This is what he had to say.
Obama lashed out at Trump’s executive order curbing immigration. In a statement issued Monday, he even backed protesters who have taken to the nation’s airports, disrupting travelers, in protest of Trump’s actions.
He released a statement. “The President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” said spokesman Kevin Lewis.
One would hope that as a former president, Mr. Obama would show some restraint. When Bush was asked why he never criticized Obama, even when Obama blamed his presidency for everything from global warming to the Chicken Pox, Bush said, “We have one president at a time. America must speak with one voice.”
If Obama insists on on criticizing Trump every ten days, one would hope he’d at least speak from a point of reality. He disagrees “with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
In responding to this, it’s hard to know where to begin.
First, Trump isolated the exact seven countries Obama himself had identified as training grounds for terrorists who target American lives and democracy.
Second, Obama did what Trump is going to do – but for six months, not three. In 2011, Obama banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. (Where was the media outcry then?)
Third, Trump’s executive order said nothing – zero, zilch – about “faith or religion.” It never mentioned Islam in any way. In fact, if Trump was seeking to ban refugees because of their Muslim faith, why would he stop with seven countries? There are fifty other countries with a majority Muslim population, yet Trump only banned immigrants and refugees from the seven countries Mr. Obama had targeted himself.
When Bush was about a year out of office, I attended a dinner event in Houston, where he was the keynote speaker. Addressing a mostly conservative crowd, he had every opportunity to criticize President Obama. But he never said a single negative word. It showed a lot of class, sophistication, and patriotism.
That’s not to say Obama must follow his example. At this rate, we can expect Obama to speak out against Trump 288 times if he is in office as long as Obama was.
But the First Amendment applies to ex-presidents as much as it does to anyone else. Mr. Obama has a right to speak out. But it would be nice if he would at least stick to the facts.
It’s hard to know why Obama did what he did. Perhaps he is offering heartfelt criticism for the betterment of the nation. Perhaps he is intentionally misrepresenting the facts. Or perhaps, as one person said on Twitter, he is simply auditioning for a role as a news anchor for the mainstream media.