President Barack Obama said Sunday he doesn’t intend to become his successor’s constant critic — but reserved the right to speak out if President-elect Donald Trump or his policies breach certain “values or ideals.” Offering a rare glimpse into his thoughts on his post-presidency, Obama suggested once he was out of office he would uphold the tradition of ex-presidents stepping aside quietly to allow their successors space to govern. He heaped praise on former President George W. Bush, saying he “could not have been more gracious to me when I came in” and said he wanted to give Trump the same chance to pursue his agenda “without somebody popping off” at every turn.
But Obama suggested there may be limits to his silence.
“As an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle or go to core questions about our values and ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, I’ll examine it when it comes,” Obama told reporters.
Obama, who has consistently praised Bush for the way he’s handled his ex-presidency, faces a conundrum about how to handle his own. Though he’s vowed to ensure a smooth handover of power, Obama is keenly aware he’s being replaced by a new president whose views on many issues are antithetical to his own.
The president spoke out vigorously throughout the campaign against Trump’s calls for banning Muslim immigrants, deporting millions of people living in the US illegally, reinstituting waterboarding, repealing “Obamacare” and canceling the Paris climate deal, to name a few. Those policy proposals and others like them have stoked fear for many Americans who oppose Trump and are hoping that vehement opposition from Obama and other Democrats might prevent Trump from implementing them.