Obama returns to public life next week. Will he take on Trump?
Former US president Barack Obama is to appear in a string of events, which will be closely watched for overt and covert swipes at his successor Donald Trump.world Updated: Apr 21, 2017 22:22 IST
Former US president Barack Obama is ending his self-imposed exile from public life with a series of events starting with one in Chicago on Monday, but aides tamped down expectations he will confront successor Donald Trump on their many differences.
Trump wants to kill Obama’s legacy legislation on healthcare, routinely criticises him on Syria and the Iran nuclear deal and, in a stream of tweets, accused his predecessor of ordering surveillance on him and called him a “bad (or sick) guy”.
Obama has not said a word yet. Conceding the limelight to his successor, he withdrew from public life as he had said he would after leaving office. He went on a vacation with family and friends Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey and others.
But now the former president is back. His office announced on Friday he was travelling to his adopted hometown of Chicago on Monday for a “conversation on community organising and civic engagement” with young leaders at the University of Chicago.
He has a string of events coming up thereafter — including paid speeches — going up to a a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in May, where he will be joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to The New York Times.
His public appearances and speeches will be scoured for overt and covert swipes at his successor, especially by Democrats who are looking for leadership in a post-Obama America and are eager for someone to take on Trump.
Trump and Obama have had a testy relationship marked by years of nasty swipes and broadsides — Trump was a leading member of the group of Americans who flogged the false notion that Obama was not born in the United States.
And Obama had famously mocked Trump at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association as the real estate tycoon had looked on with a grim face from the audience; he would later claim he had no problems being mocked.
But Trump said after their first meeting after elections, he actually liked Obama and later said they spoke several times in the days running up to his inauguration. He held on to that version for a while after moving into the White House.
And then he fired off those tweets.
Obama, who remains of the firm opinion that the country can have only one president, is not expected to confront Trump. Not directly, the New York Times said, citing “those closest” to the former president, who is working out of a DC office.
The Obama advisers were also reported to have said they believed a public feud with Trump “would give the current president the high-profile political foil he wants to further energize his conservative supporters”.
Former presidents are known to come under pressure from supporters and others to engage their successors, especially on issues important to them. Some are known to have given in, others don’t. Obama will be closely watched.