The former president never uttered his successor’s name at an event in Chicago, but the animus was obvious.
CHICAGO—The midterms are done, and Barack Obama is trying to get back to his post-presidency. He still thinks the country and the world are broken, but he’s dropping back out of the public debate, urging those who came to his foundation’s second annual summit here on Monday that they need to pick back up the charge for change.
“You literally can remake the world right now, because it badly needs remaking,” Obama said.
The answers to fixing problems in agriculture, education, sustainable energy and other fields, he said, aren’t as complicated as they’re made out to be. But, he insisted, “the reason we don’t do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues.”
Obama is back to his mode of not saying Donald Trump’s name, or speaking about him directly. Many of the candidates he campaigned for won, and many of the people who worked for his administration who ran got elected, and he’s eager to see the Democrats move into a number of governors’ mansions and into the majority in the House, but he’s looking to get back out of politics again.
He won’t campaign next until 2020, and probably not until the Democratic presidential nominee is decided—don’t expect him to jump in to the Mississippi Senate run-off next week, or any of the other races coming next year.
But also don’t expect Obama, who blew up the tradition of former presidents deferring to successors this fall by campaigning against Trump as a threat to democracy, to back off.
Obama and Trump still haven’t spoken since the helicopter took the former president away after the inauguration, and the worst relationship in politics has only gotten worse. Obama’s exasperation at what’s coming out of Trump has spiked again and again. Trump’s bitterness at Obama hasn’t faded at all, and he’s bristled at the former president staying active. The Friday before the election, Obama was calling Trump a manipulative liar, and Trump was mocking the size of the crowds Obama was drawing. In an interview with Fox News recorded at the White House last Friday, Trump refused to even give Obama credit for killing Osama bin Laden.
Throughout the last few years, Obama’s been returning to a thought that he says gives him hope—that if you had to choose any time and any place to be born, for all the things that are problems, you would choose America.