[1/11/17] Why did President Obama deliver his farewell address in Chicago? Maybe because he has no plans to leave Washington. He’ll stick around at least until his younger daughter, 15-year-old Sasha, finishes high school in 2½ years. He’s leasing an 8,200-square-foot, eight-bedroom gray stone mansion in the posh Kalorama neighborhood, about 2 miles from the White House.
Most former presidents return to where they came from and fade into the background, re-emerging in the capital mostly for ceremonial occasions. If they’ve served two full terms, the norm is to express relief, at least publicly, at the lifting of the office’s great burdens after eight long years.
George Washington put it this way in his 1796 Farewell Address: “Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications . . . every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome.”
Mr. Obama is different. If the Constitution allowed it, he most certainly would have sought a third term. In a year-end interview with his former aide David Axelrod, the president said he thought he would have beaten Donald Trump. At the top of his Tuesday farewell speech, the audience chanted “Four more years! Four more years!” His response: “I can’t do that”—not eight is enough. Almost an hour later, near the end of his soliloquy, Mr. Obama declared: “I won’t stop. In fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days.”
If Mr. Obama is not at peace, his worries are well-founded. The achievement he considers most important, ObamaCare, is likely to be dismantled by a Republican-led Congress that never voted for it and has no stake in it, with the consent of a new president who has already signaled he’ll make some changes right away through executive action.
Mr. Obama also fears his aggressive climate-change policies are in danger. His education reforms, trade and defense policies, nuclear pact with Iran, and management of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria—or lack thereof—are all about to face severe scrutiny and serious revision.
So while the explanation for his staying in Washington is Sasha’s schooling, the real reason is probably to fight for the preservation of his legacy. And there is no more effective way of doing so than to remain on the battlefield and position himself not only as the de facto head of the Democratic Party, but also the main media voice of opposition to the policies of Mr. Trump.
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