Karen Tumulty Wants Obama To Stop Goofing Off, Save Us From Trump RIGHT NOW
When an op-ed begins with "an open letter to Barack Obama," you know you're getting screwed. Karen Tumulty at the Washington Post believes these dark times demand a leader who can "lift us up again." Instead of visiting the website for one of the two dozen Democrats running for president, Tumulty wants to draft Obama, who we feel it necessary to remind you is no longer president of anything.
TUMULTY: Mr. President, it is time. You must speak. Your country needs you.
Seriously, Obama is not the president anymore. He prepared for this eventuality by straight-up begging you fools to vote for Hillary Clinton. He made no secret about how awful he thought Donald Trump would be as president. Why should he leave a comfortable, well-earned retirement because a majority of white people refused to listen? George W. Bush tanked the economy and got to spend his post-presidency finger painting while the poor saps whose retirement savings went up in smoke had to start working at Wal-Mart. [Why Stephen is using this as a point is beyond me: EVEN REPUBLICANS DIDN'T WANT W BACK, FOR THE REASON HE JUST SAID. Fucking Stephen! -- Ed.]
TUMULTY: Eleven summers ago, as you accepted the Democratic nomination for president, you announced: "Tonight, I say to the people of America, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land: Enough. This moment — this election — is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive."
Yeah, that was great. It was 2008. Britney Spears's "Womanizer" was burning up the charts. Now, a Nazi is in the White House. How did this happen? Sure, Tumulty figured there'd be some backlash to the election of the first black president, but she never imagined his successor -- who'd grossly questioned Obama's legitimacy -- declaring that four congresswomen of color should "go back where they came from." Really? Because we can imagine quite a bit -- not that we needed to with all the open racism that went on during Obama's presidency. We also didn't have to imagine how Obama was usually blamed for it all, as if he were hitting himself with gross bigotry.
When Obama's 2012 re-election campaign ran ads in Ohio pointing out that Mitt Romney was clueless, smarm-flavored mayonnaise who had little in common with normal humans, Tumulty herself wrote an article about how Obama was accused of echoing "racial code" -- you know, against the white guy. It wasn't an op-ed, so she didn't necessarily believe the accusations. But Tumulty should review her past clips before asking Obama to "fix" a broken nation.
TUMULTY: President Obama, I understand your reluctance to weigh in on Trump's latest transgression. You are a respecter of norms, including the one dictating that former presidents steer clear of criticizing their successors. And for all the barriers you shattered, racism was never a topic upon which you seemed eager to hold forth.
Obama wasn't a timid mouse about race on purpose. White people collectively flipped the fuck out whenever he broached the subject. His honeymoon with white voters arguably ended when he defended his friend, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was racially profiled and arrested for "disorderly conduct" -- for breaking into his own home. He was accused of "stoking racial division" when he compared himself to Trayvon Martin and dared to discuss his own lived experience as a black man in America. Conservatives even called him the "race baiter in chief." We love the brother but he's hardly a racial Svengali. Trump's terribleness has understandably accelerated the predicted MLK-ification of Obama, where people assume he was a universally beloved figure in his day. However, Obama won re-election with just 39 percent of the white vote -- statistically not much better than Clinton's 37 percent in 2016. Historic minority turnout saved Obama in 2012.
Tumulty insists Obama's "silence" is "unacceptable" and he needs to speak out. But it's not Americans of color who needs convincing. We don't empower Trump or his Republican enablers. She concedes that Republicans are morally useless and won't stand up to the president. The man who wanted to replace Obama in 2012 is now a senator. This is how Romney responded to Trump's racist statements from this weekend.
Romney can't even say "racist," which is a shame because if a Republican could manage to say the word three times, they could probably send Trump back to where he actually came from. Tumulty also makes the error of claiming that birtherism was Trump's original sin, as if Obama personally made Trump racist. The Central Park Five might respectfully disagree. Or the black people who Trump didn't want touching his money. Or the Nixon Justice Department, which prosecuted him for violating the Fair Housing Act. People were writing books detailing Trump's racism as early as the 1991. White voters elected a racist with their eyes wide open. Just what does Tumulty think Obama can achieve now?
TUMULTY: President Obama, what we need more than anything else right now is someone who can lift the country's sights again.
Flowery rhetoric to the rescue! It's "Gimme Shelter" out there, but Tumulty's requesting "All You Need Is Love." Obama actually did confront Trump almost a year ago. He was accused of "lecturing" us. What some people really want is for Obama to make them feel like they did in 2008 when his victory meant racism had officially ended. If Obama tried to play his old hits to a packed arena today, he'd strike us as incredibly naive, as if he'd learned nothing from the past decade. We need leaders who want to make the world better but can also see it for what it is right now.
TUMULTY: Find your voice again. Reclaim your legacy. Do it now. It won't wait until your memoirs.
She's not flattering Obama when she claims he's so awesome he's somehow obligated to save the country from itself. He tried. But Trump is not Obama's personal failure. He's America's.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.