Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Trump couldn’t wait to rush to Twitter and gloat over a Rasmussen poll that claims his approval rating has hit fifty percent. That figure is dubious to say the least since Rasmussen has the much-deserved reputation of being the conservative right’s numbers mouthpiece. Other polls while showing an uptick in Trump’s popularity come nowhere near the inflated high number Rasmussen gave Trump.
Then again, Trump’s tweet wasn’t rally about Rasmussen or his suspect approval numbers. It was about Obama. He added to the colorful, and slanderous picky pantheon of schoolyard, name-calling he’s turned into a studied art, by branding him “cheatin Obama.” Now just what exactly Obama supposedly cheated at, he didn’t say.
That really didn’t matter. It was one of what’s got to be a record—80 plus tweets—by a sitting president attacking a former president for alleged malfeasance in office. The Obama hit was just the continuation of Trump’s relentless mission to wipe the slate clean of any vestige of Obama’s footprint on the political scene. Trump being Trump, there’s also a mean, and nasty personal edge to it as well. Trump reminded all that Obama was very much in his sights at a GOP candidates forum in early 2015.
Then candidate Trump dredged up his old canard about Obama’s birth and patriotism, when he shouted, “I don’t know if he loves America.” The slur of Obama was the latest in his by then three-year campaign to vilify, impugn, slander, and harass Obama as not only not an American citizen, but as an illegitimate President. The campaign of lies against Obama worked wonders for Trump. When he kicked it off in his truncated run for President in 2012 hammering Obama as virtually an undocumented alien in the White House made him a household name and bestowed a tad of political credibility on him in circles that viewed Obama as Enemy Number One politically.
So, when things got dull or there was a momentary rough patch on the campaign trial, Trump had Obama as his ready-made whipping boy. Trump’s bagging the Oval Office changed nothing. He started in with the beyond ridiculous claim that Obama wiretapped him during the campaign, and the demand that Congress investigate him. Trump almost certainly had to know that this would be much to much for even his GOP friendly Congress to swallow. They didn’t. That didn’t really matter. It was just another excuse to keep the Obama vilification campaign going. This is part of Trump’s bigger end game with Obama as foil. That’s to wipe from the record every trace of Obama’s executive and legislative initiatives. He made it clear the instant he got in the White House he’d sign any and every executive order he could to try and halt, gut, or obliterate every Obama reform put in place by executive fiat.
Trump set the template early in his political game about how to go after Obama. That was to pithily toss out a sensational, outrageous accusation against or about Obama without a shred of evidence to back it up and then sit back and watch the media plaster it out as a headline or top headline news feature. The damage was done and the mission of getting tongues wagging about Obama and legions believing there must be some truth to it was accomplished.
So, when Trump hammered Obama for allegedly doing nothing about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, it had a ring of apparent truth to it. Obama was president when Russia interfered, and he did make public reference to the suspicion that Russia was engaged in political dirty dealing. However, the lie was that Obama did nothing. He ordered an investigation. He proposed and imposed sanctions on Russia. He demanded that Congress take even tougher action to prevent any recurrence on the tampering. Trump omitted all of this and double-downed by again calling on Congress to investigate Obama. It would not happen. But again, that was less important than keeping the hate Obama campaign going.
Trump’s obsessive attacks on Obama have another aim beyond mere personal vindictiveness and deflecting attention from his disastrous administration. It sends the strong signal to his base that he will try and demolish everything that they loathed about Obama; not just his policies, but what he personally stood for.
Trump at points during his campaign made no effort to correct or reprimand anyone at his townhalls and rallies who got up and vilified Obama in personal terms. This reinforced the point that Trump would make again and again that Obama was not fit from a political or personal standpoint to occupy the White House.
Obama for his part has done what almost all former presidents have done. He has maintained a studied silence about Trump. It’s not for lack of opportunity, or anger. He’s observing the informal tradition that former presidents speak well or not all of their successor in the White House. This means nothing to Trump. And it won’t because Obama is his obsession.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming The Russia Probe: What Did Trump Know, And When Did He Know It? (Middle Passage Press) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network