The time has finally come: Barack Obama is about to publicly get back into politics.
The former president may have spent the beginning of this year on vacation, but he and his aides are planning his return to the Democratic Party this fall, The Hill reported Friday. And even though many of his efforts will center on fundraising and campaigning for people like Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, experts say Obama needs to be careful with Donald Trump.
“He would be the target against which Trump would direct his fury,” Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson told The Hill. “From Trump’s perspective, nothing better could happen.”
Indeed, Trump is not likely to welcome Obama’s comeback. The current commander in chief can’t stop talking about his predecessor. Earlier this week, after a Washington Post report indicated North Korea was expanding its nuclear capabilities, Trump retweeted a message from former U.S. ambassador John Bolton saying that “our country & civilians are vulnerable today because @BarackObama did not believe in national missile defense. Let’s never forget that.” He also retweeted an unofficial poll asking who was a better president.
“This president has a very unusual obsession with his predecessor and constantly comparing himself to President Obama,” Obama-era Assistant Defense Secretary Derek Chollet told CNN. “This is not a president who seems to be singularly focused on what is a genuinely a global security threat in North Korea.”
Part of this may have to do with Trump’s poll numbers. His approval ratings have been slipping for months, recently hitting 37 percent. Obama left office at 59 percent, according to Gallup.
Since he moved out of the White House, Obama has spoken out a couple of times against Trump and his policies. In January, for example, a spokesman for the ex-president issued a statement opposing Trump’s travel ban. In June, Obama denounced Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
Nobody quite knows what Obama will do going forward to help the Democratic Party, which suffered from division during the primaries before losing the general election last year. The former president has reportedly been taking meetings with lawmakers in the House and Senate, as well as Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, but he’s previously said he wants to help develop “a whole new generation of talent” that could revitalize the group.
“There are such incredible young people who not only worked on my campaign but I’ve seen in advocacy groups,” Obama told NPR in December. “I’ve seen [them be] passionate about issues like climate change, or conservation, criminal justice reform. You know, campaigns to—for a livable wage, or health insurance. And making sure that whatever resources, credibility, spotlight that I can bring to help them rise up. That’s something that I think I can do well, I think Michelle [Obama] can do well.”
Posted with permission from Newsweek