These Are Not Normal Times: Obama Has A Moral Obligation to Call Out Trump

Silence in the face of recklessness is inexcusable.

That may be a harsh assessment, but it’s not an inaccurate one. In light of the savage damage Donald Trump is doing to our democracy, our institutions and our atmosphere, the man Trump replaced as President has a duty, as both a former President and a citizen, to forcefully condemn the machinations of the current Commander-in-Chief.

This is no time for civility, no time to hew to the tradition of former Presidents keeping their mouths shut about the current occupant of the White House. If Trump gets his way, there will be no civility and no tradition left in this country.

Obama should not feel any restraint whatsoever about tearing Trump a new one. After all, former Vice President Dick Cheney–obviously speaking on behalf of George W. Bush–didn’t hold back in his criticism of Obama in 2009. When it comes to Republicans, turnabout is fair play.

Hand-wringing Beltway pundits will, of course, denounce Obama for calling out Trump. So what? What will they say–that Obama is “intensifying partisanship” and “stirring up political divisions” by condemning Trump? Bull. Denouncing Trump is not an effort to divide the country, merely an effort to defend the people and policies threatened by Trump.

In fact, those who proudly served in the Obama administration also have an obligation to call out Trump’s mischievous minions. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is meeting this obligation bigly. So why is former Secretary of State John Kerry not going on the warpath against his incompetent successor, Rex Tillerson? Why won’t former Education Secretary Arne Duncan rebuke the intellectually lost Betsy DeVos? Why won’t former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell tear into fossil-fuel fetishist Ryan Zinke? They all need to stand up.

By his own words, Obama obligates himself to denounce the Donald by name:

”I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job,” Obama said, adding: “The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.”

The “next generation of leadership” won’t be able to “to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world” if Trump destroys this one with nuclear aggression and carbon pollution. The “next generation of leadership” will be slaughtered in the streets if Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has his way. The “next generation of leadership” will be condemned to substandard education if DeVos implements her dark vision.

The time is now. The moment is now. Obama and those who served with him are obligated by common decency and basic morality to go on the attack against this indecent and immoral President. They must denounce with rhetorical force every Executive Order, every hate rally, every pro-billionaire decision…every tweet, if they have to.

Obama must remember what he said about George W. Bush a decade ago:

We’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault. We’re distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what’s filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.

The Barack Obama who spoke those words must stand up again. The fate of this country–and indeed this world–depends on it. He will be honored by history if he uses his powerful voice to condemn Trump–and condemned by history if he remains silent.

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.