Now that “President” Donald Trump’s white supremacist rhetoric has gone so far it’s resulting in mass shootings, former U.S. Presidents face a difficult question. Do they publicly push back against a sitting President? If so, how far and how directly? Yesterday, President Obama made his decision. Today, Trump made a mistake.
President Barack Obama, because he’s classy and he respects the office, decided to release a statement yesterday that didn’t mention Donald Trump one way or the other. Instead, Obama simply criticized white supremacist rhetoric in general, and called for it to end across the board. We all knew he was talking about Trump, but he didn’t actually say that.
This left Donald Trump with a choice. All he had to do was ignore Obama’s words, under the premise that they didn’t apply to him. By keeping quiet, Trump could have sent the signal that he doesn’t consider his rhetoric to be racist in nature. Instead, Trump posted a Fox & Friends quote which pointed out that George W. Bush never criticized Barack Obama. Oops.
In so doing, Donald Trump acknowledged that President Obama was in fact talking about him when he criticized white supremacist rhetoric. We suspect Obama knew this would happen, and allowed his statement to serve as bait. Trump just foolishly took it. Not only does it make Trump look bad, it ended up amplifying what Obama said to begin with.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report