From the moment President Barack Obama first won the presidency in 2008, his political opposition began conspiring to discredit him.
The same politicians who spent considerable taxpayer money in failed efforts to tarnish his reputation have remained largely silent as his successor, President Donald Trump, has in the past eight days:
- Fired the acting FBI director, who was leading an independent investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election and potential Trump campaign collusion in that effort.
- Threatened that FBI director on Twitter while alluding to a potential secret taping system in the White House, which to this day he and his administration won’t confirm or deny exists.
- Floated suspension of all future press briefings, while insisting that even his own aides can’t be trusted to impart his positions or actions accurately.
- Was revealed to have shared highly classified national security intelligence to Russian officials in the White House in a private meeting where U.S. press was barred from attending.
- Undercut official White House statements on what took place in said meeting by claiming that he was right to share sensitive intelligence with the Russians.
- Was revealed to have allegedly asked the now former FBI director to squash an investigation into his embattled former National Security Advisor in an unorthodox one-on-one meeting.
The Mitch McConnell’s and Paul Ryan’s of the world made a devil’s bargain last November.
They were so desperately thirsty to roll back the historic achievements of Obama’s presidency, they hinged their legacies on a disastrous political novice with a long history of racism, sexism and shady business connections.
Yes — that man was Donald Trump.
Their rationale was that Trump would be a rubber stamp on the Draconian conservative agenda they hold so dear — which includes kicking over 20 million people off their health insurance and dramatically lowering corporate tax rates — but so far, Trump’s presidency hasn’t eclipsed Obama’s; it has only exalted it.
Yes, Trump has seriously gutted several major Obama initiatives and executive orders, but the biggest achievements of the first African-American president’s tenure still remain intact. Despite the GOP’s best efforts, Obamacare, Wall Street reform, and the Iran nuclear deal are just a few of 44’s accomplishments which still remain the law of the land.
Additionally, Obama’s values as a leader — as a champion of civil rights and preserver of actual democratic norms — have persisted since he left office. For instance, it is now widely accepted that it is wrong for health insurance companies to deny coverage to a person with a pre-existing condition, and same-sex marriage enjoys the support of a majority of Americans. Neither of these concepts were remotely as codified in the American psyche prior to Obama’s presidency.
Organized resistance has greeted the Trump presidency from its start.
The protests have also dwarfed whatever grassroots opposition Obama faced in his first year in office — during which he maintained strong approval numbers that only dipped into negative territory in year two.
Meanwhile, Trump’s White House — which is seriously rattled after a steady stream of headlines questioning his fitness for office and raising the potential for criminal indictments for obstruction of justice — has been plagued by the stink of scandal and historically high disapproval numbers, something which never happened under eight years of Obama.
While Obama sometimes took flack for his cool, “no drama” approach to governance — it looks much better now in the wake of the daily gut punch which has been life under Trump (and it’s been less than 120 days).
When he left office with approval ratings hovering around 60 percent, Obama was on an upswing — even some Trump voters professed to have been supporters of Obama — and he was already being ranked in the upper tier of U.S. presidents, in part because of his ability to avoid any major corruption or political scandals while he was in office.
History has a way of often burnishing the credentials of all past presidents — for instance, the once unpopular Harry Truman has been the beneficiary of many decades of image rehabilitation — but having a successor widely perceived as unsuccessful can also work wonders for a president’s legacy.
Bill Clinton’s robust 1990s economy and relative peacetime internationally was widely popular when it was held up against the Wall Street collapse and prolonged wars during the George W. Bush years. And Ronald Reagan’s image as a game-changer may have as much to do with the public’s dissatisfaction with the post-Watergate presidencies which preceded his.
In Trump’s case, it probably doesn’t help that the Obamas are reveling in their post-White House life. Contrast this with the fact the current president (the oldest first term president ever elected) has been portrayed as seething behind closed doors about leaks by his staff members when he’s not fleeing to his own secluded golf courses or appearing in front of friendly, pre-arranged, predominately white crowds.
Trump may have questioned Obama’s citizenship, intelligence and legitimacy — but Barack is having the last laugh.