Former President Barack Obama broke his postpresidential silence on Monday, issuing a cautious statement about President Trump’s travel ban and the protests against it.
Before leaving the White House, Obama repeatedly emphasized how important the role of citizen is in American democracy. Now, he says he is inspired that so many citizens have heeded his call by protesting drastic measures that Trump took that many have criticized as antithetical to common American values.
Kevin Lewis, a spokesperson for Obama, released a statement on behalf of the former president praising the protesters for exercising their constitutional right of assembly and rejecting the notion that his antiterrorism vetting policies resemble Trump’s.
It is Obama’s first public statement since leaving office Jan. 20:
“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.
Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.
With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
The political and personal differences between Obama and Trump are well known. Obama was highly critical of Trump’s policy proposals during the general election but indicated his intention to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power — widely considered a hallmark of American democracy — and offer his guidance as needed.
Obama has cited former President George W. Bush’s graciousness to his incoming administration despite their political differences as an example he sought to follow. Bush famously avoided criticizing Obama publicly, though his vice president, Dick Cheney, frequently blasted the president during television and print interviews.
During his final press conference, Obama said he would speak out in the Trump era if he felt “our core values are at stake.”
Among the threats to those values, he said, are “systematic discrimination,” voter suppression, “institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press” and the deportation of children who immigrated into the country illegally with their parents.
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