As the Trump administration moves quickly and systematically to erase every last remnant of Barack Obama's legislative and regulatory legacy—from the Iran deal to the Affordable Care Act to the Clean Power Plan—consumer advocate Ralph Nader has a simple question for the former president: where have you been?
"Besides raising funds for his presidential library (about $1 billion), is getting press primarily for being paid $400,000 or more per speech before Wall Street and other big business audiences."
Obama, Nader writes in an op-ed published Tuesday, has remained "mostly silent as the belligerent Trump rolls back or destroys" his achievements.
"The list of protective programs and responsible business laws destroyed by Trump's wrecking crew of a cabinet grows longer every week," Nader writes, but "[t]he mere thought of tangling with the Trumpster's foul, prevaricatory, sneering tweets offends Obama's own sense of civil discourse between politicians."
In recent days, the already large list of programs and rules destroyed by Trump has grown rapidly. Over the past week alone, the Trump administration has:
- Signaled its intent to "decertify" the Iran nuclear accord;
- Moved to dismantle the Affordable Care Act through overt sabotage or executive order;
- Intensified the "war against wind and solar" by moving to roll back the Clean Power Plan;
- Issued immigration proposals denounced as "red meat for xenophobic extremists";
- Circulated a "religious freedom" memo that critics say amounts to little more than a "license to discriminate" against the LGBTQ community; and
- Rolled back Obamacare's birth control coverage mandate.
The fact that Obama has retained overwhelming popularity and influence on his party makes his detachment from such crucial matters unacceptable, Nader argues.
"Obama owes a different attitude and level of engagement to the American people," Nader writes.
The former president could, Nader notes, "work to strengthen civic groups and help substantially to create new organizations to address urgent needs (such as averting wars)." He could also "back opposition to Trump's destructive policies that are running America into the ground while shielding Wall Street and the dictatorial corporate supremacists whose toadies Trump has put into high government positions."
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Instead, however, Obama has mostly kept his sparse public protests against Trump's agenda confined to his Facebook page, as in the case of the administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"Under Trump, families will be exposed to more hazards in the workplace, the environment, and the marketplace, and they will face rip-offs by companies that have been liberated from regulatory law and order."
But Nader observes that the problem isn't merely that Obama is remaining silent in the face of Trump's full-scale rollback of crucial protections for workers and the environment. The crucial issue is that the former president is all-too accessible to precisely the wrong crowd.
"Obama, besides raising funds for his presidential library (about $1 billion), is getting press primarily for being paid $400,000 or more per speech before Wall Street and other big business audiences," Nader writes. "Most recently, the New York Times located him in Sao Paulo, Brazil, speaking generalities to businesspeople who were charged from $1,500 to $2,400 to hear him say essentially nothing of note."
"Meanwhile," Nader adds, "tens of millions are without living wages or health insurance.... Under Trump, families will be exposed to more hazards in the workplace, the environment, and the marketplace, and they will face rip-offs by companies that have been liberated from regulatory law and order."
Any of these facts by themselves, and particularly all of them combined, should be more than sufficient to provoke Obama to burst his "self-enriching bubble," ditch political decorum (and Wall Street), and return to the public sphere on the side of those fighting back against Trump's destructive agenda.
"Think of your millions of supporters, Mr. Obama," Nader writes in closing. "They want you to regularly stand up for them and fight the Trump-led assault on our weakening democracy."