Obama tells aides: If Trump starts deporting DREAMers, “I don’t know that I can sit on the sidelines”

C’mon, let’s repeal the 22nd Amendment. It’s a subject that’s ripe for compromise. Nothing would make Trump and his fans happier than having him become eligible to be president for life. And no doubt the left would love a crack at him in 2020 with a proven winner, one without eight thousand tons of ethical baggage, who’s smart enough not to go referring to his opponent’s populist fans as “deplorable.” Clearly America wants a Trump vs. Obama match-up. We have it in our power to live the dream.

Barack Obama himself seems eager for a fight, if only as an ex-president:

Obama has identified a few issues that would draw him out directly: a Muslim ban, though he still considers the chances of that remote, or moves that would cut back on the protections he put in place for the children, known as “dreamers,” who were brought to the country illegally as minors and who’ve been living here since.

“If he deports thousands of kids,” Obama has said several times in private meetings of late, according to people present, “I don’t know that I can sit on the sidelines.”

Also potentially on the list: a move by Trump to unravel the Iran deal or the Paris climate accord, or the shape of an Obamacare repeal and replacement.

“If things rise to the level where it’s a statement of who we are as a people and as a country, things that are important to him, then depending on the circumstances he will engage and he will talk,” said one of the people familiar with thinking about the post-presidency.

Doesn’t the left (and maybe, increasingly, the right) believe that nearly every issue bears on “who we are as a people,” though? When you treat your ideology as a creed in which all virtue is reposed, it follows that any deviation is a threat to the country’s soul. Obama’s not going to come out of his corner if Democrats and Republicans end up bickering over whether the top bracket should be 35 or 39.6 percent, but even there, you can imagine how quickly things might turn hyperbolic if one side pushed for a more dramatic adjustment. How low would the Republican Congress have to set the rate before we got a stern lecture from ex-President Obama about “fairness”? Twenty-five percent? If he’s worked up about DREAMers, the Iran deal, and the Paris Accord, it likely has less to do with those policies bearing on “who we are as a people” — how the hell does the Iran deal do that? — than the fact that each is key to his legacy. He’s made peace with the reality that Trump’s victory means ObamaCare will be repealed, since that was always part of the stakes in the election. But most other parts of O’s legacy are salvageable potentially, for the simple reason that Trump hasn’t showed his cards on them yet. If he starts shipping out illegals, tears up the Iran agreement, and pulls out of the Paris treaty, then yeah, of course we’re going to get a “this isn’t who we are” scolding from the former Lecturer-in-Chief. His entire program will have been torn out by the roots.

Not to worry, though. Trump’s not about to deport thousands of kids.

It’s worth reading this whole piece, incidentally, as it describes the early organizing Obama’s already doing in hopes of influencing the Democratic Party in retirement. Apparently Organizing For America is about to mutate yet again into “a nexus for training activists and candidate recruitment,” which jibes with Obama grumbling yesterday to George Stephanopoulos that if only he’d had time to be the party’s “chief organizer” these past eight years, they wouldn’t have been utterly crushed in elections at every level. He’s going to go out and find qualified Democrats for office, apparently, to try to undo the rap he’s gotten for being brilliant at getting Barack Obama elected and unspeakably terrible at doing the same for anyone else. It’ll be fascinating to watch how he negotiates the battle shaping up between the establishment left and the Bernie contingent that wants a more old-school populist approach. Obama’s more a creature of the former than the latter; if he ends up recruiting mostly from the center-left, thwarting more progressive candidates in House and Senate primaries, his legacy will start crumbling in parts of his own party’s base too. He could be an unpopular figure among the grassroots of both sides 10 years from now. Although knowing that might restrain him and force him to recruit some Bernie types too, if only to preserve his goodwill with progressives. The shrewdest strategy in navigating the Democratic Party’s civil war is not to end up on either side. Obama’s always been good about staying above the fray, or at least pretending to.

He’s destined to say something sharply critical about Trump this year and we’re destined to unload on him when he does. Here’s a reminder, though, that while Dubya was a model of gracious silence in retirement, Dick Cheney felt obliged to defend Bush’s policies early on in O’s first year as president, when he started to undo some Bush-era initiatives on enhanced interrogation.

Jazz Shaw Jul 03, 2022 10:01 AM ET