Pittsburgh Publish-Gazette editorial: Barack Obama’s return

We haven’t heard much from the 44th President of the United States in the past four years. Now he’s reappeared.

The occasion is the publication of his presidential memories – “Promised Land”.

The timing is odd. The country is in great need right now and the new president needs the stage and as much support as possible.

Barack Obama waited four years to produce this book. Why not wait another year and in the meantime do your best to make any number of the necessary efforts? Perhaps a national aid program for the thousands of homeless people who went invisible and lost their soup kitchens and shelters during COVID-19.

Or a job program for thousands of restaurant workers who are not now working.

But there is the former president who is on all kinds of talk shows, talking to the various hosts about it and showing us what we already knew – he’s cool.

But Obama doesn’t say much these days that inspires or even comforts. The nation he promised to heal is more divided and broken than ever. The Democrats never gave Donald Trump a break and the Republicans won’t give Joe Biden any.

And Trump will disregard another presidential norm. Instead of tacitly backing off and accepting his fate, he will try to hold his party, feed his red base meat and harass Biden in general.

What does Obama have to say about that?

Not much.

What is he up to these days? No voters are registering or trying to save the black family or stop the violence in Chicago. (He never retired. He stayed in Washington, DC.) No, he became a TV producer of all things.

Has Obama changed?

Are we wrong about him? Was there less than intended and more vanity and complacency than we dared admit? Wasn’t there so much hard thinking behind the pretty words?

Maybe we are better off with presidents who only promise to be good caretakers and not be hope or change in person. Without Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy’s Camelot would have been just a fable. Maybe Joe Biden will do more than Obama even tried.

Or did Obama just not find his former presidency?

It’s a unique office to be a past president.

Bill Clinton was a pretty solid president and an embarrassing past president.

George W. Bush was silent and did his community service quietly.

Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower have managed their previous presidencies well.

William Howard Taft went to the Supreme Court in what some hoped Obama would.

As everyone knows, Jimmy Carter gave us the best past presidency of all – standing up for human rights, overseeing fair elections around the globe, and building houses for people who didn’t have them. He actually took a hammer and worked.

And he taught the Bible study every Sunday.

Carter just did well wherever and whenever he could.

He put his previous presidency to good use, causing many to reconsider their views of the man. His service increased his stature.

Obama’s ex-presidency has so far followed Clinton’s path: his self-acceptance reduces him.

The nation is on the verge of a real public health and economy collapse, and for a while it seemed like we had a constitutional crisis where Trump refuses to admit defeat.

And Obama has nothing better to do than shoot a book on the talk show?

The former president is still young. It is time for another and better chapter.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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