Code of Silence: Will Obama Finally Call Out Trump?

Now, there’s just no excuse.

It’s hard to figure out just why the 44th President of the United States won’t directly criticize his incompetent and insane successor, but Barack Obama refused to do so again a few days ago in his John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award acceptance speech (and in his remarks at a climate-change conference in Milan, Italy). This is starting to get a little frustrating.

Yes, in his Profile in Courage Award speech Obama suggested that the Senate should not slash away at health care. Yes, Obama touched upon the same themes of unity and democracy that inspired so many Americans thirteen years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. However, unity, democracy and a defense of Obamacare aren’t enough.

On some level, isn’t Obama thumbing his nose at the Indivisible movement by refusing to directly call out Trump? Doesn’t he realize that the vast majority of the folks who voted for him in 2008 and 2012 are begging, pleading for him to, as Dwayne Johnson used to say, lay a smackdown on the bigoted billionaire?

What is blocking Obama from unleashing on the criminality and cruelty of the Trump Administration? Civility? Decorum? Concern about Trump’s strange supporters intensifying their support for the Crackpot-in-Chief? Please. This is not the time for civility and decorum. This is the time to put up both fists and start swinging.

It’s as though the only member of the Obama Administration who seems to fully grasp this concept (besides former Attorney General Eric Holder, as we learned yesterday) is former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Surely, she was warned about the alleged risk of inflaming Trump’s supporters by calling out the President. Surely, she was given an explanation that Beltway pundits would tut-tut about her supposed lack of tact. Nevertheless, she persisted in stating, clearly and courageously, the magnitude of the threat this President poses.

To quote the old AIDS-crisis slogan, Silence = Death — and Obama’s silence regarding the Trump administration’s contamination of the Constitution could lead to the death of our democracy. History has always judged harshly those who remained silent in the face of injustice, those who moderated their mouths in the face of malevolence. It’s easy to be quiet. It requires no effort…but it’s not admirable.

Obama doesn’t deserve to be criticized for signing a lucrative book deal, or for giving speeches. However, he invites the brutal judgment of posterity and the shame of future generations with every day he holds his tongue about the prejudiced and prevaricating President who came after him. Hillary Clinton has pledged allegiance to the Resistance. Why won’t Obama?

In his Profile in Courage speech, Obama invoked the legacy of Ted Kennedy. Just imagine what Ted Kennedy would be saying about Donald Trump today, what he’d say about Neil Gorsuch and Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt. Kennedy knew that one cannot be civil to conservative charlatans.

Heck, Kennedy’s call for a stronger health care system in 1980 was far stronger than Obama’s in 2017:

Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must — we must not surrender — we must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.

The President, the Vice President, the members of Congress have a medical plan that meets their needs in full, and whenever senators and representatives catch a little cold, the Capitol physician will see them immediately, treat them promptly, fill a prescription on the spot. We do not get a bill even if we ask for it, and when do you think was the last time a member of Congress asked for a bill from the Federal Government? And I say again, as I have before, if health insurance is good enough for the President, the Vice President, the Congress of the United States, then it’s good enough for you and every family in America.

If I believed in the supernatural, I would wish that the ghost of Ted Kennedy would haunt Barack Obama, would keep him up at all hours of the night, until he finally stood up and directly called out Trump’s treachery, breaking with the nonsensical tradition of former Presidents remaining silent about successors they find wayward. If, say, Elizabeth Warren beats Trump in 2020, do you think Trump will stop condemning her once he’s out of office?

The Resistance–and every citizen of the world of good will–needs Barack Obama to strip the bark off Donald Trump. What is stopping him from doing so?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.