President Obama may be planning a return to his community organizer roots when he leaves the White House this month, desperately trying to protect his fragile legacy from Donald Trump and emboldened Republicans, even as he strategizes today with Democrats to try to salvage Obamacare.
“He will not go quietly — he just can’t help himself,” said Republican strategist Dave Carney. “He will be opining and the media will go to him to get quotes and he’ll be a pain in the neck to Trump.
“He can’t believe how stupid we were to vote for an idiot like Donald Trump after all the great things he’s done for us. … It’s an elitist attitude,” Carney said.
In his final weekly radio address of 2016, Obama hinted that he’ll be an active ex-president, creating speculation he would work directly to halt Trump’s plans and protect his own legacy. Obama said he “will be there with you every step of the way” as a private citizen to ensure the country lives up to the “incredible promise of our founding.”
It may be a sign of much more to come. Obama plans to deliver his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday to “celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here,” according to an email he sent his supporters.
Obama, who remains popular within his own party and boasts a 56 percent job approval rating, could help rally Democrats currently struggling to find a flag-bearer, according to one party operative.
“I think you have to play to your strengths as an ex-president and his strength is as an orator, speaking to the large issues facing the country,” said Democratic strategist Scott Ferson.
“He’ll be the Democratic statesman in the way everyone loves Bill Clinton, but people will listen to Barack Obama’s direction,” Ferson said.
The president also plans to travel to Capitol Hill today — a rarity during his presidency — to meet with Senate and House Democrats over ways to guard against Republicans’ efforts to dismantle Obamacare. Vice President-elect Mike Pence plans to make a similar trip today to rally Republicans.
His pleas and warnings to stop Trump — who campaigned and won on a platform largely of reversing Obama’s most significant policies — likely will not stop on Inauguration Day.
The Obamas already plan to stay in D.C. well after they leave the White House later this month so youngest daughter Sasha can finish high school.
Despite pledging a smooth transition, Obama has taken other steps in recent weeks to make it harder for Trump to carry out his agenda. They include a ban of oil and gas drilling in waters off the coast of Alaska, a move to transfer more detainees from Guantanamo Bay and new sanctions against Russia over allegations of interfering with the U.S. election process.
Trump last week blasted the “many inflammatory … statements and roadblocks” from Obama in a tweet, but after the two spoke, the president-elect was more cordial. Regardless, Trump and the Republicans — who control the House and the Senate — are likely to hold the upper hand going forward, especially because many of Obama’s policies were enacted unilaterally, said Carney.
“They can undo executive orders with the stroke of a pen, they can go through the regulatory process to undo regulations,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of what Obama has tried to do is relatively straightforward if President Trump wants to dismantle it,” he said. “These grand Rose Garden signing ceremonies are photo ops, and it just takes another photo op to get rid of them.”
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