We’ve heard for months about the mysterious letter President Barack Obama left for incoming successor Donald Trump, but this week we finally got to learn what 44 wrote to 45. Thanks to (yet another) White House leak, the contents of the letter were divulged in a CNN report, and (the rather disgusting betrayal of one of Trump’s friends aside) it illuminates just how hypocritical the former president can be when lending advice to others.
“It’s up to us to do everything we can to build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard,” Obama wrote in the first of four pillars of advice to Trump.
This, coming from the president who famously claimed “you didn’t build that” when it came to every small business entrepreneur in the country. The president who, under the guise of climate change and economic stimulus, burdened the country with so many regulations that “success” became a far-fetched fantasy for millions. The president whose Obamacare program took the free out of the free market, putting us on a frighteningly-fast track to democratic socialism. HARD WORK? That was the Obama platform? Could have fooled us.
“American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend,” Obama continued.
We can assume that this is a paragraph that Obama would not have included in his letter had his successor been Hillary Clinton. It’s an unmistakable shot across the bow at Trump’s campaign message, which is that the U.S. spends far too much time, treasure, and military power protecting the world – at the expense of our own interests. Of course, it is also a wonderfully ironic piece of advice coming from the president who botched the Iraq withdrawal, refused to tackle the War on Terror with anything approaching even vague interest, and handed Iran a nuclear agreement that still looms as one of the greatest threats to the Middle East and beyond. And frankly, that’s only scratching the surface when it comes to Barack Obama’s foreign failures.
Obama’s next piece of advice was also clearly Trump-specific, and it shows you how much even the president drank the Kool-Aid when it came to Donald J. Trump.
“We are just temporary occupants of this office,” he wrote. “That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”
There’s nothing wrong with these sentiments in a vacuum, but we don’t blame Trump if he felt a bit miffed reading them on the day of his inauguration. Here’s the outgoing president insinuating that his successor will not be inclined to uphold democratic institutions and traditions. That’s an insult, no matter how you look at it. And it’s doubly insulting considering Obama’s own record, which included innumerable executive orders that threatened to upset the very “separation of powers” he claims to cherish. Obama’s disregard for those “instruments of our democracy” was much of the reason that Trump’s election was such an intense necessity for millions of horrified Americans.
At the close of his letter, Obama left the door open for Trump to call him at anytime for guidance and advice. Reportedly, Trump hasn’t taken him up on that offer. After reading the letter, we can fully understand why.