He’s totally right about O throwing up roadblocks to try to box in the next administration, most notoriously with the UN vote on Israel last week but extending to other areas of policy.
Among the other “roadblocks”: Obama has tried to “permanently” ban offshore drilling in certain parts of the Arctic and Atlantic and he ordered the dismantling of the NSEERS registry for visitors from terror countries, which Trump has talked of reviving. The biggest box-in, of course, is the review Obama has commissioned of Russian hacking operations during the election and the reprisals he’s planning (or has already ordered), both of which will make it harder for Trump politically to make nice with Putin next year. For all the nice-nice talk between the outgoing administration and the incoming one, Team O is doing what it can to screw Team Trump.
But it goes both ways, too. Trump’s phone call with Taiwan complicated the Obama administration’s dealings with China, although with little consequence given how soon O will be out of office. More significantly, the NYT reported a few days ago that Team Trump tried to intervene in the UN vote on Israel’s behalf:
The split widened on Friday when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote that condemned Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and allowed the resolution to pass. A day earlier, Mr. Trump had publicly demanded that Mr. Obama veto the measure, even intervening with Egypt at the request of Israel to pressure the administration to shelve the effort…
“In some ways, Trump is neutering the Obama administration,” said Douglas G. Brinkley, a professor of history and a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston. “They’ve avoided personally attacking each other, but behind the scenes, they’re working to undermine each other, and I don’t know how the American people benefit from that.”
One obvious remaining way for Team O to try to screw their successors would be to delete the database of information they’ve collected from DREAMers who’ve signed up for Obama’s DACA amnesty. That information could be used by Trump and Jeff Sessions, in theory, to locate DREAMers and deport them. (In practice, Trump sounds open to creating some sort of legal accommodation for them.) If Obama’s feeling more daring, he could preemptively pardon Hillary Clinton for any crimes that may have been committed as part of her email follies — although, ironically, Trump might like that idea since it would spare him the political pain of disappointing his base if Clinton is never charged with anything.
I’ll bet the thing that annoys him most, though, isn’t the roadblocks Obama’s setting for him but rather O claiming that he would have won a third term if he’d been able to run against Trump. It’s one thing to tie Trump’s hands in trying to lead the free world, it’s another to bruise the alpha-male ego. Trump grumbled about it several times online yesterday:
How would Trump have fared against a Democratic candidate who isn’t obviously terrible and charmless? To think: If he had run in 2012, we might have found out. (Sorry, Mitt.) Exit question: Does Obama’s turf war with Trump mean he’s already given up on lobbying Trump on policy next year? The more he does now to limit Trump’s options, the less clout he’ll have. But maybe that’s inevitable. Once Obama’s Russian-hacking review is published, the uneasy friendship between him and Trump will probably be spoiled forever.
Update: Getting chillier…
on Trump tweets attacking Obama, WH @PressSec responds: "We've been ignoring these tweets for a year – why would we start responding now?"
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) December 28, 2016