Howard Dean: Let’s face it, Obama attacking Trump now would only make things worse
I was going to call this post “Howard Dean, unlikely voice of reason” but it occurred to me that probably every Democrat in America agrees with him about it. This is an obvious, obvious, obvious point: If Obama muscles his way in front of the cameras and starts attacking Trump, every Republican and right-leaning independent in the country who’s making a stinkface at the president right now will rally behind him in the ensuing partisan food fight You’ll even get some true independents frowning at Obama for his lack of presidential etiquette in attacking his successor. Bush was a scapegoat for O for years after he assumed office and didn’t complain. Now it’s Obama’s turn.
Can’t give Dean credit for saying something that’s utterly uncontroversial. Except … it is controversial. There are actually people out there in this great land of ours who think Obama dueling publicly with Trump would hurt Trump rather than help him.
Mr. Obama, you are the president who got up and sang “Amazing Grace” after the Charleston, S.C., killings. You are the president who shed tears in public after Sandy Hook. Now we are a country troubled by the looming possibility of a constitutional crisis, and hate groups are claiming the president as theirs. We need your voice. There is not a saner, more trustworthy opinion that many of us would rather hear.
I recognize and respect your deliberate approach to navigating these fraught times, but this relentless subtlety has become wearisome. Mr. Obama, now is not the time to follow the keep-quiet rules while the new administration plays moral equivocator to a much aghast nation…
My generation graduated from college, got our first jobs and became adults all under the auspices of that truth. We learned to experience politics through the lens of your eloquent presence in the White House. In this respect, you raised us. So we are unaccustomed to all of this wildness. Just because we’re grown doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear from the man who brought us up.
“You raised us”? No doubt The Father Of Our Nation is itching to speak up and take it to Trump rhetorically: The current Democratic leadership is a charisma-less vacuum and Obama himself enjoys nothing more than delivering a “that’s not who we are” lecture to the public about American identity. In extreme cases, like the aftermath of Charlottesville, he has spoken up — briefly and elliptically on Twitter, where this tweet became the most “liked” in history:
That’s about as loud as he gets these days, though. Obama himself, through his conspicuous silence, clearly agrees with Dean’s judgment that he’s better off lying low. So do Democratic Party leaders, who, despite the occasional noisy brain fart from Nancy Pelosi, have done a shrewd job of keeping quiet since Charlottesville while Trump and the GOP squabble among themselves about the alt-right, the filibuster, Jeff Flake, you name it. You know the rule: When your enemy’s busy making a mistake (or, in this case, tearing itself apart), get out of its way.
Obama’s top aides will huddle with him in the next several weeks to plan his fall schedule. And while his allies say he will play an active role in assisting the Democratic Party, much of the work will be out of public view.
One reason for the behind-the-scenes role is to keep the president from becoming a “foil” to Trump and Republicans, allies say.
“The shit is hitting the fan on the other side,” one former senior administration official said. “Why play the foil?”
Why indeed? Some accommodation will have to be made for Obama’s enormous ego, though, as O will bite his tongue for only so long before he won’t be able to resist lashing back. I wonder what it’ll take. He issued a statement or two during the GOP’s halting efforts to undo ObamaCare; if McConnell ever gets his caucus on the same page and they manage to put something on Trump’s desk, maybe then Obama will come out swinging. It’d be stupid of him to risk unifying Republicans by attacking Trump now, but once they’re already unified and are passing legislation — if that day ever comes! — that risk will be gone. At that point his chief worry will be crowding up-and-coming Democrats out of the spotlight by occupying it himself. Er, who are the up-and-coming Democrats again?
Here’s Dean-o, via the Free Beacon.