President Donald Trump has received an enormous amount of backlash this week over his decision to end the Obama protections for children of illegal immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, best known as DACA.
DACA was a particularly troubling program for conservatives because, with the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration granted citizenship rights to nearly 1 million Americans. The president is asking Congress to pass legislation that would reform the broken immigration system for these immigrants.
According to the White House statement:
In June of 2012, President Obama bypassed Congress to give work permits, social security numbers, and federal benefits to approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants currently between the ages of 15 and 36. The typical recipients of this executive amnesty, known as DACA, are in their twenties. Legislation offering these same benefits had been introduced in Congress on numerous occasions and rejected each time.
In referencing the idea of creating new immigration rules unilaterally, President Obama admitted that “I can’t just do these things by myself” – and yet that is exactly what he did, making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic.
The Obama administration knew the move was a politically risky one. Former President Barack Obama said so himself. However, when Trump reversed the decision, there was outcry from veterans of the Obama administration and the former president himself.
In a lengthy statement released on his Facebook, Obama rebuked the Trump decision to undo his policy. Obama said, in part:
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.
In his post-presidency, Obama has lashed out at the Trump administration with regularity. When Trump decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement, Obama released a similarly lengthy statement criticizing Trump and defending the work of his eight years in office. At public events and in public speeches, Obama takes jabs at Trump administration policies.
It’s worth noting Trump hasn’t even been in office a full year.
While some may excuse Obama’s post-presidency activism as necessary, there are others who wish the former president would follow the example of his predecessor.
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That is exactly what Obama got. Upon leaving office, George W. Bush declared that Barack Obama “deserves [his] silence.”
Bush refused to publicly criticize President Obama for his entire eight years in office.
Various secondhand reports paint Bush as criticizing his successor behind closed doors, but nothing was ever said in the public arena or in the form of a statement. The move must have been difficult for Bush, whose long and consequential legacy was undone by Obama quite systematically. Bush-era foreign policy, military strategy, domestic policy and financial policy all saw massive overhauls and complete 180s under Obama.
The move must have been even more difficult for the former Republican president, who experienced attacks from former Presidents Clinton and Carter regularly.
When pressed by Sean Hannity in 2014 on why he remained silent, even when his legacy was being largely deconstructed, Bush said this, according the Washington Times:
“I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president. I think it’s bad for the presidency, for that matter.”
It’s natural for any president to rework and even undo the legacy of his predecessor. It’s a natural process in democracy. It’s healthy. It means balance. But it’s unfortunate that some former presidents don’t see the value in allowing Trump to create his own legacy — even if they disagree with it.