Images of Barack and Michelle Obama serving up Thanksgiving turkey to military retirees landed on my Facebook page shortly after I”d read a fine piece on Obama by David Remnick in the latest New Yorker about the final days of the presidential campaign and immediate aftermath.
This may be Arkansas and I may be in the minority, but let me declare how thankful I am for Barack Obama and his presidency. National polls indicate the majority of the country, if not Dixie, is getting it now too. His cool, calm, analytical style — plus powerful oratory and a good sense of humor — are all the more remarkable given the abuse he’s endured. He’s stood tall on tough issues, representing people often without a voice, never mind a paid lobbyist or interest group.
I’ll miss him, even if 65 percent of my fellow Arkansans say they will not.
Remnick’s article hints broadly that, while Obama isn’t declaring an apocalypse on account of the Trump presidency, he was surprised at how little Trump seemed to be prepared for the duties that lie ahead.
The official line at the White House was that the hour-and-a-half meeting with Trump went well and that Trump was solicitous. Later, when I asked Obama how things had really gone, he smiled thinly and said, “I think I can’t characterize it without . . . ” Then he stopped himself and said that he would tell me, “at some point over a beer—off the record.”
I wasn’t counting on that beer anytime soon. But after the sitdown with Trump, Obama told staff members that he had talked Trump through the rudiments of forming a cabinet and policies, including the Iran nuclear deal, counter-terrorism policy, health care—and that the President-elect’s grasp of such matters was, as the debates had made plain, modest at best. Trump, despite his habitual bluster, seemed awed by what he was being told and about to encounter.
Congress and courts may shred some concrete bits of Obama’s legacy, but it will survive. I can’t think of a president for whom my admiration grew on such a steady upward trajectory.