Monday, December 2, 2013
The Obama Ex-Presidency
You weren't thinking he'd retire to a farm and chop wood, were you?
We have a pretty well established tradition in this country of retired presidents leading quiet lives, having passed the mantle on to others. Our very first president established this tradition by relinquishing power to be a gentleman farmer at Mount Vernon.
In particular, ex-presidents are expected stay out of political affairs. There's only room for one guy at the top, and that person has to be free to make their own way. George Bush has become a painter, like Churchill. In a recent rare interview, he was served up the opportunity to criticize Obama on a silver platter, but he politely demurred. (Must have been difficult, considering how much blame Obama continues heap on Bush for just about everything, but he seemed quite peaceful about it.)
Jimmy Carter was the first to break the mold, offering his acidic opinions for anyone who would listen, which fortunately is almost no one. I have to give Bill Clinton some credit, though. Irrepressible as ever, there was no way he was going to hang out all day gardening in Chappaqua. Instead, through the Clinton Global Initiative, he has found a "third" way - staying relevant on the world stage while not interfering too much politically. (Okay, he interferes, but it could be much worse.)
Normally, it would be way too soon to think about how President Obama will spend his retirement years, but Obama himself has forced the conversation by suggesting that he won't leave Washington in 2016. The last time this happened was Woodrow Wilson, and that was only because he was dying.
I will call this now: Obama will be the most meddlesome and irritating ex-president in our nation's history. For starters, he'll only be 55, and looking at another 30 years or so to fill. He will become the community organizer again, this time writ large, a roll he will arguably like better than actually being president. Think about what a community organizer actually does: disrupts, argues, and hectors, constantly jabbing at existing power structures. This is, in essence, how Obama has tried to run his presidency. The tiresome process of consensus building is something with which he has no experience, and it holds no interest for him. This has resulted in not just zero lines of communication with his opponents, but, remarkably, his allies as well. Not surprisingly, leadership as Scold-in-Chief isn't very effective, and actually being responsible for the outcome of things like Obamacare is an annoyance.
But how much fun it will be on the outside! No responsibility! No more boring meetings or stupid heads of state to meet with! The press, ever idolatrous, will provide a mic as needed. Watch out, in particular, if there's a Republican in the White House. Obama will be asked for his opinion on every policy, and he will gladly give it, even organize actively in opposition to whatever warms the hearts of the MoveOn crowd.
There will not be the slightest hesitation. This is a man who decides what laws he wants to enforce and which he doesn't, and even makes new law himself. This is a man who cheered the nuclear option last week after saying it was a fundamental threat to our democracy when he was out of power. This is a man who lied about Obamacare because, with a compliant Fourth Estate, he knew he could. This is a man who has blown off scandals that would have felled others because, again, he knew he could. To suggest that over two hundred years of tradition, starting with George Washington, will give him any pause is about as likely as Self Magazine running a cover story titled, "Get a Large Ass Just Like Michelle."
Somewhere, Saul Alinsky is smiling.