Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Staying On The Sidelines

It's called 'put up or shut up,'  and former president Barack Obama can show current President Trump how to do it.

We learn from Politico

Think about how it’ll look on TV, Barack Obama told Donald Trump. All those kids being rounded up — teenagers, good kids. It’ll be all over cable news. Then he’d have to come out full blast himself, Obama told Trump, according to an aide to the former president who recounted the exchange.

The two of them were sitting in the Oval Office barely 30 hours after their first conversation ever, when Obama called Trump to say, “Congratulations, Mr. President-elect.” Maybe he’d gotten through, Obama told people afterward. But if not, and Trump still revoked protections for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, it “would be something that would merit me speaking out,” Obama promised at his final news conference.

That moment arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and Obama issued a statement. It was the longest and most confrontational statement of his post-presidency. But it referred only to “the White House,” not the president, or Trump. It called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decision “contrary to our spirit, and to common sense” and “self-defeating,” “wrong,” “a political decision, and a moral question.”

But Obama won’t be leading any rallies or doing any interviews. Just as he did during the Obamacare repeal fight, he’s purposefully keeping quiet — even as his team was already quietly consulting on steps forward Tuesday with activists and strategists.

Obama can see just as well as everyone else that the most reliable predictor of what Trump will do as president is the opposite of what he said or did. He’s decided the best play is to not give Trump any more to play off of than his successor already has.

“We are mindful of the dynamic that we’re in — which is the risk of backlash is real, and so we don’t want to give this administration an excuse to do the wrong thing, and we also don’t want to give Congress an excuse to do nothing,” said an Obama adviser involved with the deliberations on Tuesday.

His nine-paragraph statement — written in his Washington office on Tuesday and so much in Obama’s voice that it even includes his “let’s be clear” tic — there’s nothing about what to put in a bill, only the principles at stake and the need to do something. Obama sees protecting Dreamers as a major part of his legacy, but he doesn’t want Republicans to back away from a bill because they’re supporting something that their base's favorite boogeyman wants.

This is classic Obama- calculating, shrewd, and humbly willing to deflect attention from himself, even to the extent of demonstrating the lack of backbone he spent the first seven years of his Administration demonstrating.

But this simply won't do. It won't do when Republican Senator Marco Rubio has laid down the gauntlet, challenging President Trump to take a stand, any stand.  In the interest of context, this is the full statement he issued Tuesday:

I have long supported accommodating those brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own. However, I have always felt that President Obama's executive action was unconstitutional and that the right way to address this issue was through legislation. Congress now has less than six months to deal with this the right way, through the legislative process. It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign. We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign.

It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign. We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign.

The way forward is obvious. President Obama can endorse Rubio's recommendation that President Trump speak now or forever hold his peace on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And he can do so while refuting the Senator's contention that the former President's action was unconstitutional. He can argue that Trump's ambiguity- DACA has to go but I have great love for those kids, I really do- demonstrates the need for unambiguous, decisive presidential action.

In this instance, that would mean simply that President Trump should "clearly outline what kind of legislation" he would sign.  "According to the people who helped Obama with the drafting," Politico reports, "that was less defense and more about putting the responsibility on the House and Senate going forward. " However, that reasoning reinforces Attorney General Sessions' reference to "the previous administration's disrespect for the legislative process" because it places responsibility upon Congress.

In a carefully crafted statement, President Obama should endorse Senator Rubio's argument that President Trump cannot sit on the sidelines.  Done right- as it would be- Obama would be adding credibility to Rubio's remarks while displaying leadership as he did on this one issue as President.

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