No matter how much President Obama’s fans want him to stop Donald Trump from taking office in January, there is simply nothing in the Constitution that would give Obama the authority to prevent it from happening. The Judicial Branch has that kind of power; the Executive Branch does not. But that hasn’t stopped Obama from finding ways to steer Trump toward imploding and hobbling himself before his tenure even begins. This week was the most striking example yet.
In a move which many of his own supporters on the left seemed to misinterpret at the time, President Obama stated a few days ago that he could have won a third term if he’d been allowed to run against Donald Trump. Some even interpreted it as a sleight against Hillary Clinton. But in hindsight, seeing the results play out over the past few days, it seems clear that Obama was simply trying to bait Trump into going on a self defeating bender of stupid remarks. And sure enough, it’s worked.
Instead of acting remotely presidential over the holiday season, Donald Trump was instead tweeting crap like this and this, which amounted to little more than smack talk about how he would have beaten Obama. But in amongst those tweets, Trump also made the embarrassing assertion that the world was “gloomy” before he won, while also beating his chest about his own fraudulent Trump Foundation, which he had been trying to shut down and make people forget about when the week began.
In other words, by baiting him into a pissing contest about who would have won a theoretical 2016 matchup between the two of them, President Obama has sent Donald Trump into such a rage that he’s resumed tweeting the kinds of things that make him look bad. As always, it doesn’t matter how much Trump’s base adores him, or how much Trump’s detractors despise him. Any leader’s fate is decided by whether the middle sides with the base or the resistance. Popular presidents can get away with just about anything. Unpopular presidents can get away with comparatively little.
Every time Trump goes on a Twitter bender, the middle views him as that much more un-presidential. President Obama made a point of baiting him into flying off the handle in a manner which buries his already pitiful approval rating that much more. While the middle may not have bothered to show up and vote against Trump, they will decide whether he succeeds or fails in his attempt at transforming America from a free democracy to an authoritarian kleptocracy. Obama seems to understand that. The left should follow his lead, in trying to make sure the middle never can forget just how unsuitable Trump is.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report