Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 10:53 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Jamie Stiehm: Post-Presidency, Barack Obama Is Leaving Us Behind

He left us in the lurch. Now he’s living large. Maybe he’ll send a postcard from French Polynesia or the Vineyard.

Former President Barack Obama is not one of us anymore. Word is out on the street: He accepted a $400,000 speaking fee from Wall Street.

Call me gobsmacked. A possible government shutdown seemed stale next to this. Even as President Donald Trump tried a thousand things to mark his 100 days in office, the 44th president seemed more puzzling. Obama’s not running for president, but it’s way out of his political character.

Now we know the true color of Obama’s soul: green. Making a mint of money is clearly central to his pursuit of happiness. Apparently the estimated $60 million book deal he and his wife, Michelle, inked just wasn’t enough.

Green is also the color of cucumbers. And Obama is one cool cucumber. It came back, all of a piece. Reluctantly, I remember Obama never got on the team, meaning the Democratic Party, though he was captain.

Always, Obama was a solo artist — rare in politics, a backslapping, extroverted team sport. He shunned socializing with members of Congress (slumming) and didn’t get out on the field to campaign for them.

The impersonal president didn’t like listening to other people’'s speeches. He campaigned for Hillary Clinton, but how hard? He did not lift turnout.

Since Obama’s been gone from the White House, he’s hung with Bruce Springsteen and Oprah Winfrey on a yacht in the blue yonder. After he had gone kitesurfing with adventurous British billionaire Richard Branson, that is.

Obama’s sporting a movie star look, but does he see the country left in shambles through those shades? Does he feel our pain?

Does he feel blame for the fix we’re in? Maybe a twinge of guilt for appointing James Comey as FBI director? The Republican Comey revealed all about Clinton’s emails, but not a peep about the investigation into Russian hacking to influence the 2016 election. Come on. Comey’s the one who influenced the election.

This was high-minded Obama at work, appointing a Republican as head of the FBI for 10 years, above partisanship. How well it worked out. Obama himself should have broken the silence about the Russian investigation last summer.

Obama operated as a man of reason in an age of insanity.

“So, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” Obama asked impishly at his first public event at the University of Chicago, his opening line. The line broke up the house, borrowed from Hamilton, the Broadway musical.

The glamorous Thomas Jefferson character saunters on stage from Paris, where he was ambassador to France, and does a jig: “What’d I miss? ... I basically missed the late ’​80s!” meaning the 1780s.

Jefferson, the charming, brilliant character who had everything, missed the hard teamwork of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Philadelphia. His right-hand man, lead author James Madison, took care of things, the way Jefferson liked it.

In the White House, Obama did well for himself, a wordsmith and class act with legacies already under attack by Trump: on climate change, Iran and health care. Surely, he’s one of the greatest presidential prose writers and soaring speechmakers.

But Obama fell down on the job in buttressing party strength, and he failed to fight for his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. The consequences of his cool, aloof attitude are all too real right now, as Senate Democrats bravely band together to battle Trump’s aggressive excesses. They are the party’s light of hope.

But the Supreme Court, both houses of Congress and the White House are controlled by Republicans. Losing all the keys to power is an unfortunate end to any presidency.

Constitutional law is Obama’s scholarly pride. The Electoral College is a constitutional vestige that gave two divided verdicts in 16 years. The Electoral College state count has caused more than one democratic crisis, empowering states with small populations unfairly.

Obama succeeded a Republican who lost the people’s vote, President George W. Bush, and was followed by a Republican who lost the popular vote, Trump.

Let him speak out against that glaring flaw.

While in office, Obama identified with Alexander Hamilton’s character, the bright fatherless immigrant. In his post-presidency, it appears that he aspires to be like supremely wealthy, privileged Jefferson.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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