Some big talk on the way out
President Obama says he could have won a third term. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
There’s not much sunshine for a president on his way out of town, even if, as in the case of Barack Obama, he isn’t even leaving town. Marine One, the big green helicopter, will pluck the former president and his lady from the Capitol, where they will have lunched with President Trump and the first lady after the inaugural, and take them on the traditional long, sweeping arc over the nation’s capital for one last, lingering look at all he once presided over.
Only Mr. Obama is not leaving town, and short of a suitable landing pad, Marine One can’t even drop him off at his new digs in the fashionable Kalorama neighborhood, just up the street from the mosque. But they’ll have enough help finding their way home.
Getting used to being just plain citizen usually takes a while. Harry and Bess Truman drove home to Missouri in their old Plymouth, and when someone asked him what they did on arriving home, the 32d president said simply: “Well, I took the suitcases up to the attic.” Not much has changed since.
Mr. Obama is apparently already not having an easy transition. He got in a presidential tiff with his successor over whether he would have won a third term by putting the Donald in his place.
“I’m confident,” he told David Axelrod of CNN News, “that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized the American people to rally behind it.
“I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say that the vision, the direction you point toward is the right one.”
Well, Mr. Obama’s supreme self-confidence, the belief that the mere sound of his voice could charm a marble angel off a gravestone, has always been his strength. It’s part of what led millions of Americans give him the benefit of the doubt. The other part is the innate goodwill of the American people, twice elected the first black president.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, appears to be coming at last to the realization that he will soon be the president, and will no longer need answer every jibe and taunt from the Democrats, even from Barack Obama.
“President Obama said he thinks he would have won [a third term] against me,” the Donald responded mildly on Twitter. “He should say that, but I say NO WAY! — jobs leaving, ISIS, Ocare, etc” The Donald is learning that the needle by understatement can be more fun than going over the top.
But could Mr. Obama have defeated the Donald? We’ll never know, of course, but Mr. Obama was as much the target of the ire that the Donald rode to the White House as Hillary was. If it makes the president feel good, one last toot on the presidential horn hurts no one. We’ve all been to some big towns and heard some big talk, and when the big talking is done, it won’t be the Donald singing the blues.