After spending a leisurely few of months on vacation, Barack Obama will soon step back into the public eye on Monday, with a town hall-style meeting at the University of Chicago on Monday, and a series of public and private speeches over the next couple of weeks. It's welcome news to Obama's supporters, many of whom have lamented his silence so far during the Age of Trump. But if you're hoping to hear Obama criticize President Trump in any of these upcoming speeches, you may want to temper your expectations.
With a few small exceptions, Obama has been silent on Trump-related matters since the inauguration, and according to the New York Times, he's not going to change course anytime soon. There are a couple of reasons for this — some general, others specific to Trump.
For one, it's recently become a bit of a tradition for former U.S. presidents to abstain from criticizing the current president. After George W. Bush left office, he rarely condemned Obama, and according to the Times, Obama is "stubbornly committed" to that tradition. He intends to give Trump the same courtesy he was afforded.
Beyond that, there are two specific reasons Obama plans to stay silent on Trump. There's a very real possibility that any criticism from Obama could backfire. His aides told the Times that if the former president started feuding with the current one, it could effectively elevate Trump's status, give him a high-profile enemy to insult, and ultimately energize both him and the Republican base. Better to let Trump wriggle and writhe on his own, the thinking goes, than let him use Obama as a scapegoat.
Perhaps most importantly, Obama has reportedly concluded that his input isn't terribly necessary, as his supporters are already fired up and ready to go. The left isn't demoralized — ever since the inauguration, progressives have been chomping at the bit to confront Trump, as evidenced by the near-constant protests against him since the inauguration. Obama is great at getting a crowd excited and motivated, but right now, most of his supporters seem to be pretty motivated already.
Lastly, it's worth noting that in his last interview as president, Obama said that he would speak up against Trump if he saw America's "core values" placed at risk. Whether Trump has already placed said values at risk is a matter of debate, but if not, there's certainly still time for his administration to do so. From this perspective, it's probably up to Obama to keep his powder dry in these early stages of the Trump presidency, as that could give his voice much clout down the line, if he intends to use it. It's better to be a reluctant hero than the boy who cried wolf.