He’s grumbling about Fox News and talk radio while feigning that he isn’t partisan.
The Wall Street Journal
December 29, 2016
In two interviews over the holidays, President Obama signaled how he’s likely to conduct himself once out of office: whiny, self-justifying and bursting with excuses.
Mr. Obama grumbled to Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic that he suffered “concentrated vilification” by “Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the whole conservative-media ecosystem.” But he is hardly the first president to be attacked, and much of his coverage has bordered on worshipful. Still, Mr. Obama complained, conservative criticisms “had an impact in terms of how a large portion of white voters would see me.”
Most whites, he acknowledged, don’t vote based on race. But he argued that “good people” can be “made afraid, and suspicious and fearful.” The president said that many voters are “responding to a fictional character named Barack Obama who they see on Fox News or who they hear about through Rush Limbaugh.” As a result, many whites think “this black president is trying to hurt you or take something from you and looking out for ‘his own.’ ”
To illustrate his point, the president claimed that “the whole debate about Obamacare” was framed as “He’s trying to take something from you to give free stuff.” That isn’t what happened. Googling “Obamacare, free stuff” produces about a half a million hits. Searching “like your plan, keep your plan” generates nearly 1,000 times that number.
Mr. Obama admitted that some conservatives may oppose his agenda “because they have a coherent and sincere view” about the proper role of Washington. Then he quickly warned that “the relationship between the federal government and the states was very much mixed up with attitudes towards slavery, attitudes towards Jim Crow, attitudes towards antipoverty programs and who benefited and who didn’t.”
The president rarely accepts that people have honest disagreements with his policies. Instead, he insists they are putting party above country and intimates that racism is at the core of much of the opposition of white Americans.
Fox News (to which I contribute) may upset Mr. Obama by covering both sides of issues that much of the media ignores. Mr. Limbaugh may discomfort him by entertaining and educating millions. But neither is what led 47% in this election’s exit polls to say they wanted a more conservative new president while only 28% wanted someone to continue Mr. Obama’s policies.
In a podcast with his former adviser David Axelrod, Mr. Obama indicated the form his revisionism will take. He recalled his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which he said “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.” After he won the White House, Mr. Obama said, Republicans like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R. Ky.) “mobilized a backlash to this vision,” deciding to “just say no” and “throw sand in the gears” to thereby win back House and Senate seats.
This is malarkey. The GOP’s ability to throw sand was nil in Mr. Obama’s first years. Democrats held massive congressional majorities, and the president marginalized Republicans instead of co-opting them. He dismissed GOP suggestions for his stimulus bill by saying “I won.” While Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee worked toward a possible compromise on health-care legislation, the White House made known that it would not respect any bipartisan agreement they arrived at.
It was only after nearly two years of abuse like this that Mr. McConnell declared in late October 2010 “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Democrats have already admitted that’s their goal for President-elect Donald Trump.
Mr. Obama still doesn’t understand that the GOP’s victories in ’10, ’14 and ’16 were repudiations of his policies. In the podcast, he argued that rural voters were wrong to vote Republican because his administration “devoted more attention, more focus, put more resources into rural America.” The idea that Democrats “abandoned the white working class,” he added, is “nonsense.” In other words, country folks should stay bought and the working class is too dumb to understand what’s good for them.
While saying it was time for “new voices and fresh legs,” Mr. Obama threatened that if “some foundational issues about our democracy” arise after he leaves office, he might “weigh in.” He also promised his presidential center would help young people become “organizers, journalists, politicians” by providing “tools for them to bring about progressive change.”
The IRS may get indigestion at such partisan use of a nonprofit, but Republicans should do cartwheels about these pledges, since it was Mr. Obama’s leadership that helped produce the biggest GOP dominance in nearly a century.
Mr. Obama will be the first ex-president since Woodrow Wilson to remain in Washington. Given the tone of his interviews, he could well become a carping, persistent presence in our nation’s capital.
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