Is Barack Obama Becoming the Worst Ex-President Ever?

Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday delivered an hourlong keynote address at Oktane18, a three-day customer conference held by Okta, a San Francisco-based security software firm at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas. Photo by Okta, Inc.
Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday delivered an hourlong keynote address at Oktane18, a three-day customer conference held by Okta, a San Francisco-based security software firm at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas. Photo by Okta, Inc.

Barack Obama isn’t president anymore. He’s a “former president.” And that gives him just as much of a platform and a whole lot more freedom. But is America’s first black president wasting his post-presidential power?

The author of a recent article on Splinter News, a liberal-leaning publication, charges him with doing just that.

Hamilton Nolan recounts what Obama has been up to since he left the White House: “He went on a kite surfing vacation with a billionaire. Then he got a $65 million book deal. And then, this week, he signed a deal to produce shows for Netflix… This is what he has deemed more important than making even a symbolic gesture towards the idea that there is something more meaningful for a former president to do with his life than to get disgustingly wealthy.”

Compare Obama’s post-White House eviction activity to Jimmy Carter, widely considered the most lackluster president in recent memory. Carter has redeemed himself publicly in the years since he left office. Nolan writes:

[He] is viewed as a moral authority today far more than he was as president, is commonly cited as the best example of how to use post-presidential life for the common good. He’s been running around building houses for the poor and running all over the world promoting peace for more than 30 years now. He has legitimately contributed to the spread of global human rights, and has conducted himself as a humble beacon of morality, one who appeals to hardcore lefties and fundamentalist Christians alike. When he dies, he will be remembered as someone who did everything he possibly could to translate his own political clout and personal prominence into help for needy people at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, Obama, who was far more popular than Carter while in office, has been silent on political and social issues and has not made any waves in humanitarian or philanthropic endeavors. He has even declined to become what many Democrats would like for him to become — a shadow president, speaking out in opposition of everything President Trump does. (Now that one thinks of it, Obama has barely made a peep as Trump “dismantles” policies that were considered a part of his “legacy.”)

While it’s probably not a good idea for a former president to lead the opposition of a current president, there are many things Obama can do that all Americans can get behind. Nolan names:

  • Prison reform and lowering the prison population
  • Fighting racism
  • Fighting sexism
  • Overcoming economic inequality

And, of course there are others:

  • Tackling problems in the inner cities (like, you know, the violence in Obama’s hometown of Chicago)
  • Serving as a peace ambassador to regions troubled by violence and political strife
  • Promoting charitable and humanitarian efforts

Obama is a private citizen, and he has the right to do as he pleases. But he’s still a very high-profile individual. If he doesn’t throw his weight behind helping the citizens of America and the world, history may count him as the worst ex-president ever.

–Joshua James