On Friday, former President Barack Obama “delivered a speech in Illinois that both appealed to America’s better angels and crushed Trump as nothing more than a privileged opportunist who is exploiting American divisions and fears.”
The former president gave a rousing call to arms for the 2018 midterm elections, urging people to vote because we are facing a perilous time for our nation. He also threw aside usual presidential manners and protocol by addressing President Donald Trump directly by name, which he had never done before.
In his speech Obama said that Trump is “capitalizing on resentment that politicians have been fanning for years,” and that “the politics of resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.”
Hearing Obama’s words, and seeing him back on the national stage was an uplifting and inspiring moment for the former president’s supporters. Tens of millions of Americans have been missing him greatly ever since he left office, and are extremely unhappy with what they see happening in the country under Donald Trump.
Most conservatives panned Obama’s speech and criticized him harshly for entering the political fray just before the midterm elections. But at least one conservative agreed that Obama’s return was a good — and possibly necessary — thing at this time: columnist Bret Stephens of the successful New York Times.
Stephens said on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House.”
“Well you see, this is the thing. Ordinarily I would be very leery of a former president, from both tactical as well as moral reasons, attacking his successor as politically and as aggressively as Obama did. And I know that Obama appreciated the fact that George W. Bush maintained pretty much total radio silence, you know, took to painting, during his presidency. That’s what happens during normal successions, normal transfers of power.”
But under Trump, Stephens said, things are different, and he now has a different opinion about what Obama should do. He went on by saying:
“What I think Obama is doing is filling a vacuum that has been left by the Republican party itself. Where was Paul Ryan, saying pretty much what Obama just said? Where was Mitch McConnell? Where were any of the leaders of Congress? The only one who stood up, of course, late and lamented, was John McCain. He provided that leadership that is now absent.”
“And that’s why I think it’s important for Obama to step up,” Stephens added. “Because this is not an ordinary transition, this is not an ordinary period, because what Obama is defending isn’t this or that partisan Democratic policy. He’s representing the tradition of republican government that should transcend all politics, and he’s speaking as a president, not as the leader of the Democrats.”
MSNBC host Nicole Wallace, a former Republican but huge Trump critic, added that Obama’s return to politics is bad news for her former party. According to Wallace, Republicans should be afraid because Obama’s return will wake up his coalition of Democratic and Independent voters.
After playing part of Obama’s speech where he said presidents should denounce neo-Nazis, Wallace said, “Good God, Trump makes you miss everyone that came before him. Obama’s return to the campaign trail is sure to fan the flames of Donald Trump’s inferiority complex.
There is no question that Donald Trump is afraid of Barack Obama and is trying to undo every legacy of his predecessor’s administration. But it is also true that Obama’s presence in the political dialogue of the country is needed now.
Barack Obama is a reminder to every American of what a president can be — and of what our country can be.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.