Obama, you will be watching just like the rest of the country. All you can do is complain now. You don’t have the power anymore and thank the Lord for that. All your threats are useless now.
At his last scheduled news conference before leaving office on Friday, Obama said if there was ‘systemic discrimination,’ efforts to ‘silence dissent’ or to ‘roll back voting rights,’ he would be ‘speaking out.’
It was among his most activist descriptions of his next act, and indicates Obama may be rethinking his post-presidency role and heeding the urging of some activists to play a stronger function in the leaderless Democratic Party as it navigates the Trump administration.
That group of issues, Obama explained, were ‘core values that may be at stake’ and would prompt him to get off the sidelines.
‘If I saw systematic discrimination [is] being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise,’ Obama said.
He continued: ‘I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press.’
He saved some of his most impassioned remarks for DREAMers. ‘And for me, at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids, and send them someplace else, when they love this country, they are our kids’ friends and their classmates and are now entering into community colleges or in some cases serving in our military …’
‘The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids, when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves, I think would be something that would merit me speaking out. It doesn’t mean that I would get on the ballot anywhere.’
His comment about DREAMers references immigrants brought here illegally as children. Obama issued executive actions to protect them from deportation, but their fate is now in limbo.
Trump during the campaign threatened to undo the actions, although in recent remarks he has said his policy will have ‘heart’ and they will be well treated. Trump also during the campaign spoke about making it easier to sue media outlets for libel, said he would bring back water boarding, and proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
He told Fox News in an interview that aired Wednesday: ‘It’s a plan that’s going to be very firm, but it’s going to be a lot of heart. And we’re going to be looking into that situation.’
Trump’s proposed Muslim ban is one rights issue that Obama failed to mention explicitly.
Obama also spoke about advancements for gay rights, using a football analogy to describe his administration’s actions, which he described as irreversible.
‘I’m proud that in certain places we maybe provided a good block downfield to help the movement advance. I don’t think it is something that will be reversible, because American society has changed. The attitudes of young people in particular have changed,’ the president said.
‘That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important – legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons. There’s still going to be some battles that need to take place,’ he continued.
‘But if you talk to young people, Malia and Sasha’s generation, even if they’re Republicans, even if they’re conservative, many of them would tell you, “I don’t understand how you would discriminate against somebody because of sexual orientation.” That’s just sort of burned into them in pretty powerful ways.’
Trump has also threatened to roll back or reverse multiple other elements of Obama’s agenda that the president didn’t mention, from climate change to policing tactics.
Trump spoke repeatedly about what he called election fraud, which could set up an effort to have his Justice Department relax enforcement on states who raise the bar for voting.
Obama made his comment about jumping into politics after saying his immediate plan is to quietly reflect and write inside his new home in DC’s tony Kalorama neighborhood.
‘I want to do some writing. I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much,’ he said.
He returned to the issue of voting rights later in his remarks, when asked a question about race.
‘I’m talking about voting rights. The reason that we are the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote, it traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery,’ he said.
In a goodbye present to the press, Obama said: ‘I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.’
‘Having you in this building has made this place work better, it keeps us honest … it makes us work harder,’ he said.’
The remarks defending the role and utility of reporters come as Trump has continued to wage political war against perceived rivals, bashing CNN and NBC as ‘Fake News.’ His incoming press team threatened to kick reporters out of the White House and hold briefings outside the traditional briefing room, although incoming Press Secretary Sean Spicer appeared to back off on Wednesday.