As I was thinking about Donald Trump recently, the line just popped into my head, “Not a noble bone in his body.”
Which immediately turned my thoughts to President Obama who, more than any president I can recall, has consistently shown nobility in his speech and his demeanor. Invariably reasonable. Invariably fair, or even more than fair. Invariably calling friend and foe to the better angels of our nature. Invariably looking out for the good of the nation, as best he understands it.
All of which has lent him a great deal of credibility as he has taken to the hustings to support Hillary Clinton and, in particular, to tell Americans that putting Donald Trump into the Oval Office would endanger the American Republic. The powerfully devastating nature of the critique of Trump President Obama is delivering — day after day, week after week — is like nothing we have heard from him before.
I happen to believe that the President should have been calling out Republican obstructionism with the same combination of fervor and clarity with which he has been blasting Trump. After all, just as Trump’s temperament and character are hardly what is required in an American president, so also an opposition party that chooses to make the president’s failure its priority, regardless of the damage to the nation, is hardly what our founders had in mind for the functioning of Congress.
It has seemed that President Obama’s fine nobility has unfortunately been tied together with something else that weakened him in the face of implacable political enemies. And for that, America has paid a price.
But now — as America finds a monstrous man nominated as standard-bearer of the same party that sought to prevent this President from doing the job the people hired him to do — all that previous restraint is yielding a dividend.
The very fact that this President has patiently endured almost eight years of terrible abuse — without counter-attacking with an intensity to match his enemies’ — has made his attacks on Donald Trump all the more impactful. The currency of Obama’s distain and condemnation has not been cheapened by previous use.
And no doubt about it, everything Obama has stood for is at stake in this battle to make sure that Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump succeeds Barack Obama in the White House. He himself stresses this point: Hillary will carry forward the legacy of all that Obama has been able to achieve (and all that he wanted to achieve), while Trump would represent its demolition.
Election campaigns have always been the times when Obama allows his warrior side to become more visible. In this campaign — perhaps because he feels less restrained when he’s fighting for the victory of an ally rather than for himself, and certainly also because this time the opponent is a man who runs roughshod over all the norms and rules that safeguard American democracy — Obama’s power as a warrior is being demonstrated like never before.
I expect Hillary Clinton to win tomorrow, and quite possibly by a comfortable margin. But it is also possible that the margin of her victory will be narrow enough that one might reasonably say that, but for President Obama’s role as warrior by her side, the election might have gone the other way.
For President Obama’s performance in this campaign, three cheers.
[Note: Even if Hillary defeats Trump, the war will go on. The Republicans are already promising that. And, after Inauguration Day, Mr. Obama will surely honor the American norm for presidents who leave office to stay out of the fray. But between Election Day and Inauguration Day, Barack Obama will remain the President of the United States. And I hope — indeed, I expect — that he will continue to be an outspoken and effective warrior to help clear the way for his successor — President-elect Hillary Clinton (God willing!) to move the nation forward.]