Sunday, September 03, 2017

How to hand the keys to an unfit successor

How do you hand the keys to the Oval Office to a man you've declared in no uncertain terms to be unfit for the presidency?

Obama's handwritten note to Trump, placed before Inauguration Day in the top drawer of the president's desk, is a carefully calibrated document -- a muted "don't be evil" plea on behalf of the nation, with goals distilled to the most basic: justice, security, democracy. Stark in its simplicity, it's generous without warmth, avoiding the hypocrisy of any hint of confidence in the recipient.

It begins with a depersonalized wish:
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
There's no suggestion that the hopes placed in Trump were grounded in reality. The wish is for good to the nation, almost as if that may occur in spite of, rather than because of, the oval office occupant.

The main body consists of "reflections" articulating principles that really should not have to be proffered to anyone who wins the office. Please don't govern only on behalf of the wealthiest.   Please don't tear down the world order the U.S. has built. Please be a small-d democrat, not a destroyer of democracy.
First, we've both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It's up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that's willing to work hard.

Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It's up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that's expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.

Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions -- like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties -- that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.

And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches.
Please be an adult. Please don't be a monster.

Interestingly, Obama disclaims the role of "advisor," introducing the points above as follows:
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don't know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
There may be a hint of despair here that Trump will listen to anything Obama has to offer. Also perhaps a sense that Trump's ego is too fragile to accept advice presented as advice.  The "it's up to us" formula with which the first three "reflections" are introduced might be addressed to anyone who occupies the office. That mutes the insult implicit in spelling out these standards of minimal presidential decency These are principles that anyone president must uphold...not to hint that you probably won't. 

1 comment:

  1. The sad part ... the letter fits the bill for any of the "deep" bench of GOP/Republican hopefuls. They were all deplorable.

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