Obama takes more pub­lic role amid conf lu­ence of crises

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is tak­ing on an in­creas­ingly pub­lic role as the na­tion con­fronts a con­flu­ence of his­toric crises that has ex­posed deep racial and so­cioe­co­nomic in­equal­i­ties in Amer­ica and re­shaped the November elec­tion.

In do­ing so, Obama is sig­nal­ing a will­ing­ness to sharply cri­tique his suc­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and fill what many Democrats see as a na­tional lead­er­ship void. On Wed­nes­day, he held a vir­tual town hall event with young peo­ple to dis­cuss polic­ing and the civil un­rest that has fol­lowed the death of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis.

Obama re­jected a de­bate he said he’d seen in “a lit­tle bit of chat­ter on the in­ter­net” about “vot­ing ver­sus protests, pol­i­tics and par­tic­i­pa­tion ver­sus civil dis­obe­di­ence and di­rect ac­tion.”

“This is not an ei­ther-or. This is a both and to bring about real change,” he said. “We both have to high­light a prob­lem and make peo­ple in power un­com­fort­able, but we also have to trans­late that into prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions and laws that could be im­ple­mented and mon­i­tored and make sure we’re fol­low­ing up on.”

Obama called for turning the protests over Floyd’s death into pol­icy change to en­sure safer polic­ing and trust be­tween com­mu­ni­ties and law en­force­ment. He urged “ev­ery mayor in the coun­try to re­view your use of force poli­cies” with their com­mu­ni­ties and “com­mit to re­port on planned re­forms” be­fore pri­or­i­tiz­ing their im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“We’re in a po­lit­i­cal sea­son, but our coun­try is also at an in­flec­tion point,” said Va­lerie Jar­rett, a friend and ad­viser to Obama. “Pres­i­dent Obama is not go­ing to shy away from that di­a­logue sim­ply be­cause he’s not in of­fice any­more.”

Obama was al­ready be­gin­ning to emerge from po­lit­i­cal hi­ber­na­tion to en­dorse Joe Bi­den’s Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial bid when the coro­n­avirus pan­demic swept across the U.S. and the econ­omy be­gan to crater. The crises scram­bled the Bi­den cam­paign’s plans for how to be­gin de­ploy­ing Obama as their chief sur­ro­gate ahead of the November elec­tion, but also gave the for­mer pres­i­dent a clear open­ing to start pub­licly ar­gu­ing what he has sig­naled to friends and as­so­ci­ates pri­vately for the past three years: that he does not be­lieve Trump is up for the job.

Bi­den’s cam­paign wel­comed Obama step­ping for­ward dur­ing this mo­ment.

Bi­den, who served as

Obama’s vice pres­i­dent, called this week for restor­ing some of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions in the wake of Floyd’s death and the killing of other black Amer­i­cans. Bi­den also called for Congress to take im­me­di­ate steps, in­clud­ing out­law­ing choke­holds.

Repub­li­cans in Iowa ousted Rep. Steve King in Tues­day’s pri­mary, de­cid­ing they’ve had enough of the con­ser­va­tive light­ning rod known for mak­ing in­cen­di­ary com­ments about im­mi­grants and white supremacy through­out his nearly two decades in Congress.

The nine-term con­gress­man, shunned by his party lead­er­ship in Wash­ing­ton and many long­time sup­port­ers at home, lost to state Sen. Randy Feen­stra in a five-way GOP pri­mary.

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