Former President Barack Obama made his grand re-entrance onto the public political stage last week. His speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was designed to inspire Democratic voters to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
It was classic Obama: long on soaring rhetoric, short on truth.
If Democrats think Obama is their ace in the hole to play against the Republicans' Trump card, bring it. Obama's less-than-stellar record had begun to fade into the recesses of the public's memories. But now it's all fresh again — and fair game.
In fact, it's eye-opening to consider the accusations leveled at President Trump daily and compare them with Obama's own history. Let's take a look at a few:
"Trump is egotistical."
Sure he is. But Obama isn't? This is the man who used Greek columns as a backdrop and developed his own president-elect seal. Who assured voters that his 2008 nomination would be "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal." Who infamously said: "I think that I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm gonna think I'm a better political director than my political director." It became popular to count the times Obama would say "I," "me" or "my" in his speeches. (Not much has changed. At the U of I last week, it was 102 times in 64 minutes.)
Of course, it was probably hard to be humble when pundits routinely compared him to God and rendered him beatifically with halos in photo after photo. Trump doesn't have that problem.
"Trump isn't qualified."
True, Trump had no political experience before running for president. But Obama had precious little. He was elected to the Illinois state Senate three times (the first was a special election) and announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate just one year into his second full four-year term. He served just over two years of his first six-year term in the U.S. Senate before announcing his candidacy for president of the United States. He had no executive experience in the public or private sector. Ambitious? Yes. Experienced? No.
Where to begin? Here are some of President Obama's monumental untruths:
» On Obamacare: "You can keep your doctor. …You can keep your plan." "Premiums will be reduced an average of $2,500." (Nope. Nope. And nope. Premiums more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. And they're still rising.)
» Calling the Benghazi terrorist attack a "spontaneous protest" in response to a video. Then later claiming that he had called it a terrorist attack.
» Misleading the public — and Congress — about the nuclear deal with Iran. (Even Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, chortled about the ease of that deception.)
Obama is still lying. Last week, he denounced Republicans for causing "the politics of division, of resentment and paranoia" and said that the GOP's definition of "civility" is "'We will be polite as long as we get a hundred percent of what we want.'" Apparently, Obama wasn't watching the clown show put on by Senate Democrats at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings.
"Trump cozies up to dictators."
This is rich. When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney argued in the 2012 campaign that Russia was a threat to peace and security, Obama said, "And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back." Earlier that same year, Obama had been caught on a live mic telling then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." To which Medvedev replied, "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir."
That would be Vladimir Putin.
President Obama bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. And to the Japanese emperor. (OK, the emperor of Japan isn't really a dictator, but still ...)
And how about the time Obama drew a "red line" for Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, warning him not to use chemical weapons? Assad thumbed his nose at the United States, using chemical weapons multiple times, whereupon President Obama did nothing.
When University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was arrested and imprisoned in North Korea in 2016, the Obama administration urged his family to remain quiet and patient. Nothing happened. President Trump was able to get Otto Warmbier released. (Tragically, Warmbier arrived home in such horrific physical condition that he died only days later.) Trump also obtained the release of three additional prisoners — Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song.
"Trump hates the press."
Obama proclaimed this week that he never had the hostile relationship with the press that President Trump has. The press called him out on that whopper. Obama's administration was notoriously closed to press inquiry, spied on journalists, seized their records, denied Freedom of Information Act requests at unprecedented levels and prosecuted whistleblowers. And he was described as "going to war" against Fox News.
"Trump is going to destroy the economy."
Laughable. The economy is doing so well — jobs up, unemployment down, wages rising, consumer confidence up — that Obama is now trying to take credit for it. Sorry, Mr. Obama, but you didn't build that.
Trump vs. Hillary Clinton was amusing. But Trump vs. Obama is the Clash of the Titans. So, please, Mr. Obama, keep speaking. Every day. For the next two months. Because if the November 2018 elections become about Obama's record, Republicans will sweep.
Laura Hollis is a Creators Syndicate columnist and a teacher of business law and entrepreneurship who holds faculty appointments at the Mendoza College of Business and the Law School at the University of Notre Dame.