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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 3:25 pm | Fair 63º


Susan Estrich: Saying Goodbye to Obama; He Will Be Missed

We will miss him.

We will miss his intelligence and restraint; his dignity and diplomacy; his efforts to rebuild the image of America in a world where more children grow up hating us every day.

I have always admired Barack Obama, but I supported Hillary Clinton in both 2008 and 2016. I thought she was more qualified. I liked her, and — for what it's worth — she always seemed more "likable" (as if that is the sine qua non in the ISIS era — who you like) in that campaign. This one was hobbled from the start by those darn emails, and the legalistic way in which the campaign handled them. Even so.

Imagine the shoe were on the other foot. Imagine it were Clinton who, four intelligence chiefs concur, was the intended beneficiary of a concerted Russian effort to influence the outcome of our election. Imagine it were Clinton's people who were rumored to have actually communicated with Russian operatives about the plan. The truth would not matter. All hell would be breaking loose.

It isn't. There are protesters, as there likely will be every day for the next four years. Donald Trump likes conflict. Better television. But still, having lost the popular vote by millions, having first refused intelligence briefings (because he's too smart to need them six times a week, unlike such lesser minds as our current president), finally the Donald had to admit that, yes, the Russians were involved, if not as involved as some of the latest reports would suggest.

But so what? Has that changed his plans? Will he still be taking the oath? Is the sky blue?

It is one of the miracles of our democracy, a triumph of the rule of law, that we decide elections peacefully, and losers accept their results even when they have good reason to doubt them. Witness Richard Nixon in 1960, who might have claimed the election was stolen from him in Cook County; Al Gore, who had every reason to claim it was stolen in the Supreme Court; and yes, Clinton, who has every reason to wonder if the slim margin might have been otherwise had the Russians not been making mischief. But in each case, the inauguration of the official winner went on.

Now imagine it were Trump who had been the target of the Russians. Imagine every intelligence agency was reporting credible evidence that the Russians, and Vladimir Putin, had interfered in our election in an effort to elect Clinton, who narrowly won.

Would Clinton still be taking the oath next week?

Or would the former head of the birther movement, a man who was ready to strip Obama of his duly elected position based on a factually phony rumor, be blocking her path?

Would the House and Senate be taking action to delay the inauguration, pending a full investigation?

Would the talk-show hosts who so love the Donald for the ratings he has brought them, forgetting the vitriol that may come later, be screaming for Clinton's head, claiming that somehow she was not only the beneficiary of the Russian largesse but in some way part and parcel of the conspiracy to destroy our democracy?

Would the lawsuits have been clogging courts from coast to coast, seeking the recall of electors, causing delays in final certifications?

So why are more people picking out fancy tuxes and dresses than seeking to block the Russian influence in the election?

Maybe, as Trump so readily admitted at the debate, it's because he plays by a different set of rules. Guys like Obama have too much respect for the Constitution not to abide by the results of the election, even if that election was tainted by fraud.

Our president-elect would have no such scruples. He would block the inauguration if he lost under these circumstances, at least if he could, regardless of whether he should.

It is a frightening way to begin a new administration.

Obama will be missed more than people believe today.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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