The Specter of Hate
Trump's FIGURATIVE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT OBAMA
By Joseph Gallina
CALL TO ACTIVISM
Published September 6, 2017
For those of us on the National Mall when Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009, the overwhelming feelings of optimism and pride that our country had elected its first black president were electric – and the same feelings echoed throughout the United States and even the world. At the same time, many of us harbored uneasy personal feelings that our new president was in danger of being killed by the darkest forces of hate.
Instead however, it seems we are now witnessing a different kind of assassination, not only a political one, but the systematic assassination of his legacy. Arguably, the only thing worse than killing someone is erasing them – and Donald Trump is on his way.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Donald Trump will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era Executive Order that ensured 800,000 so called "Dreamers," undocumented young people who were brought to America by their parents at a young age, could come out of the shadows to drive, attend school, and work. The program enjoys majority support in this country, with a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showing that nearly 58% of Americans support a path for citizenship for Dreamers should they meet the requirements.
This isn't the first time Trump targeted a popular Obama-era measure. In June, Trump announced changes to U.S. relations with Cuba and planned to reintroduce more restrictive policies toward travel and business there. On July 1, 2015, Obama said his policy changes would serve as a “historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people.” Those steps were swiftly stopped dead in their tracks. According to a Pew Research Center Poll, 75% of Americans supported greater ties with Cuba before Trump ended them.
Perhaps there has been no greater assault of the work of Obama than the dismantling of his climate change agenda. In an executive order, Trump called on the EPA to review Obama’s restrictions on power plant emissions, which it opposes. While steadily rolling back other Obama-era environmental initiatives, Trump then pulled the United States from the Paris Accord, which Obama ratified.
While this country remains so divided, it might seem natural for an incoming president to set out to undo some of his predecessor’s accomplishments, but at times, this seems different, more personal. There’s no greater evidence of this than the Trump administration’s decision to target Michelle Obama’s nutritious school lunch initiatives that ensured healthier options for children in schools. The decision appeared spiteful, even causing the former first lady to publically muse in a question seemingly directed at Trump, “what is wrong with you? And why is that a partisan issue? Why would that be political? What is going on?”
Yes, what is going on? Is it strictly political? Is it jealousy? or worse?
Trump’s disdain for Obama is obvious. In 2011, Trump first accused president Obama of being born overseas, a move that propelled him into the political spotlight. It was a charge he never fully abandoned until Obama released his birth certificate. In a tweet, Trump made a baseless accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, calling him a “bad (or sick) guy.” Now, Trump has apparently severed any ties to the former president, in contrast to modern tradition where even former presidents of opposing political parties remain available for private counsel.
Some of the behavioral traits of the president, and the firing of FBI Director James Comey, have caused some historians to draw parallels to President Richard Nixon. Perhaps, however, a fictitious portrayal of Nixon can provide us some insight. In a scene in Oliver Stone’s film, Nixon, the embattled president played by Anthony Hopkins turns to a portrait of John F. Kennedy hanging in the White House and says, “people look at you and they see who they want to be. They look at me and see what they are.” The film attempts to capture a contempt Nixon had for the young, handsome, and hopeful Kennedy, drawing a parallel to the web of pessimism and division he had spun.
Perhaps when Donald Trump looks at Barack Obama, he sees the hope and positivity he could never achieve. But in the end, no lies about inaugural crowd sizes will ever change the appreciation so many in this country had for President Obama in those first days of 2009 or since. Dismantling every single one of his policies will never change the eight years of class and human decency he represented.
Obama was the best our country had to offer ourselves, and the world. In the end, if Trump is indeed a reflection of who we are, we must come to terms with the realization that when it comes to Obama, we might not have deserved him.