We always knew there was another side to Barack Obama. No one could actually be as mellow as the former president appears to be when under attack.
In recent weeks, the former president has begun to show signs that he has an anger threshold like the rest of us. He’s speaking out on the issues and challenging Donald Trump head-on. It is clear why the majority of Americans, according to polls, continue to view him more favorably than Trump.
During eight years in the White House, Obama kept his alter ego under wraps. We only saw glimpses of it when he allowed his anger translator, Luther, out of the box.
Luther was indeed an angry black man. He went on Comedy Central week after week for four years and called things exactly the way he saw them. In 2015, he joined Obama on stage at the last White House Correspondents’ Association dinner before the president left office.
Luther didn’t give two cents about political correctness, and sometimes he was downright offensive. He was animated, loud talking and unmercifully crass.
He was merely a character played by comedian Keegan-Michael Key. But oh, how we wished Obama were more like Luther.
We longed for the moment Obama would lash out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who sought to obstruct his every move. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought at the time, if Obama stood up and fought back?
It took 12 years, but it looks like Obama has realized that playing nice doesn’t get you anywhere in politics. Sometimes, you have to look evil in the eye and call it what it is. That’s not exactly what Obama has been doing lately, but it’s close enough.
During an online conference call with former staffers and campaign workers recently, Obama did something that former presidents rarely, if ever, have done. He openly criticized a sitting president for his handling of a national crisis.
He called the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic an “absolute chaotic disaster.” While he did not mention Trump specifically, he said our government has adopted a mindset of, “What’s in it for me” and “to heck with everybody else.”
What we will be fighting against in November, Obama warned, are “long-term trends of being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy.”
That’s why this election is so important, he said. And that’s why he’s working as hard as he possibly can to get Joe Biden elected.
The remarks were made during a private online call with 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association. The audio was later obtained by Yahoo News. With thousands of people listening, Obama surely knew that it would eventually become public.
He also criticized the Justice Department’s decision to drop perjury charges against White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”
Of course, Luther would have been more blunt. He would have called Trump a selfish, incompetent, malicious maniac who is leading the nation into a sinkhole from which it might never emerge if he is elected to another four years.
But in Obama talk, it’s the best it could get. We’re just happy he and other Democrats have finally gotten enough gumption to take on Trump and his political cronies in Washington. That always has been Trump’s greatest fear.
Everyone knows that Trump despises Obama. But he’s also scared of him. He knows that he could never outperform Obama on the campaign trail. And his “Keep America Great” red cap-wearing supporters know it too.
They’re on a mission to silence Biden’s most lethal weapon by creating a fake scandal called “Obamagate” in hope of tarnishing the popular president’s name and relegating him to the sidelines.
Trump began the latest smear campaign with a series of manic Mother’s Day tweets and retweets accusing Obama of everything from refusing to hold an American flag to conspiring to entrap Flynn. The next day, he suggested that Obama was a crook who ran “the most corrupt administration U.S. history.”
Fox News’ Sean Hannity followed up with a fabricated report on “the biggest abuse of power scandal in American history.” He pondered, “How involved was Barack Hussein Obama in deep state spying, Russian disinformation, prosecutorial misconduct, unmasking and weaponizing intelligence?”
McConnell weighed in too. He said Obama was “classless” to criticize Trump and should have “kept his mouth shut.” He later joined the “blame Obama for the pandemic” bandwagon by falsely accusing him of failing to leave a plan for dealing with a possible pandemic. McConnell later apologized for that “mistake.”
Trump still wasn’t satisfied. On Thursday, he urged Sen. Lindsey Graham in a tweet to call Obama before the Senate Judiciary Committee to “testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA.”
“No more Mr. Nice Guy. NO more talk!” he wrote. However, he has declined to offer any details about the alleged scandal that he has called “worse than Watergate.”
Graham, in a rare display of common sense, said he has no intention of doing such a thing. Don’t be surprised if he changes his mind, though.
Having previously said all that he needed to say about Trump, Obama responded on Twitter with a single word: “Vote.”
That’s much more powerful than calling Trump a buffoon. But the Luther in us kind of wishes that he had.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
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