America has just one president at a time, some Democrats reminded Donald Trump after the president-elect unsuccessfully tried to scuttle the outgoing administration's unprecedented decision to abstain from a recent and typically one-sided United Nations vote condemning Israel.
And that is true, for precisely 17 more interminable days. Not that anybody's counting.
Of course, one can hardly blame Trump for noticing how his lame-duck predecessor has been working overtime not only to discredit his electoral victory but to tie his hands after taking the oath of office Jan. 20. From the Middle East to relations with Russia to land-grabbing executive orders (despite President Obama's suggestion that Trump refrain from issuing such tactics), Trump has been given an impossible choice: meddle in another president's business or remain silent as that president cynically makes it more difficult to do the very things the election suggests voters want and expect.
But was that outcome really legitimate? Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump did, we're constantly reminded, and Obama himself has insisted he would have defeated Trump had he been allowed to seek a third term. If not for that darn Constitution and Russian meddling in the election, the message goes, Trump would have lost and there would be no pre-emptive need to protect the nation from his disastrous plans.
And so, in rapid succession, President Obama heightened existing tensions with Israel and Russia, invoked an obscure 1953 law to exempt huge areas in Alaska and the Arctic from energy exploration; ignored local objections and declared another 1.65 million acres in Utah and Nevada national monuments under the Antiquities Act, bringing the administration's total to an unprecedented 553 million acres; and scrapped the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, a post-9/11 program requiring the registration and fingerprinting of some Muslim immigrants that, according to the Associated Press, had been dormant since 2011 but could have been used by Trump to screen immigrants from countries plagued by terrorism.
Political analyst Frank Luntz has branded such tactics Obama's "FU tour," and it is in the context of all of this, and more, that interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile has actually had the chutzpah to suggest Trump has an “enormous,” opportunity to find common ground with Democrats. In fact, the often-combative Trump should heed his own instincts and exploit single-party rule while he can. What Obama achieved by executive order he should not be shy about undoing the same way.
Notwithstanding Obama's own personal popularity and Mrs. Clinton's popular-vote victory, there is plenty of evidence the country has rejected Obama's policy and the legacy he is so desperately trying to cement. Since Obama took office eight years ago, his Democratic Party has lost 1,042 seats at the state and federal level. That included the loss of the U.S. House and Senate, and a drop in the number of Democratic governors from 28 to 16. What's more, Trump won six states Obama carried just four years earlier. Whatever one thinks of Trump's policies, his victory was not illegitimate. He will and should be judged by what he does or fails to do, not on the basis of the fears and hysteria of opponents whose message has been rejected by most of the country.
Obama is hardly the first outgoing president to disagree with a successor, but few have made their dissatisfaction so obvious on their way out the door. Nor will he be far away after Jan. 20: President Obama plans to open an office in the World Wildlife Fund building after leaving office, making him the first former president since Woodrow Wilson left office in 1921 to maintain his main residence in Washington, D.C.
With that proximity will surely come the desire and opportunity to remain involved in politics, even though America will still have only one president.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 461-8355.