American Elephants


When it’s Over, It’s Really Over. by The Elephant's Child

In the American political system, the President gets to hold office for either 4 years or 8, and when he or she is done, when a new president is elected, the previous president returns to civilian life. They are no longer a leader, no longer an official, just another past president, and once more a private citizen. Obama seems to be having a hard time accepting that, as do some of the people from his administration. No more titles. No more limelight. You had your turn and it is over.

George W. Bush was most gracious. He worked at rehabilitation for members of the military who were wounded during his administration. He paid honor to them with his paintings. He carefully did not interfere with Barack Obama’s turn. Obama knows that, but doesn’t seem to understand that it is an example for him as well.

The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution limits the number of times one can be elected to the office of President of the United States. Congress proposed the amendment by two-thirds of both the House and Senate on March 21, 1947. Ratification by the requisite 36 of the then-48 states was completed on February 27, 1951.

Mr. Obama is having a hard time being a private citizen. He was following President Trump in his visits to foreign leaders for a while, turning up for a visit right after Trump’s. Tacky.  It must be hard seeing your successor undo many of your presumed accomplishments, and even worse—see the economy respond in such vigorous approval. Is he hoping for a coup?

But that’s how it works. Americans were so thrilled when George Washington’s army defeated the British and sent them packing, that some wanted General Washington to become an emperor or a king, but Washington would have none of it. That was a most important step in the American presidency, and was recognized as such by other nations. The founders worked carefully to make sure that they were defining the presidency correctly to prevent future emperors or kings.

In many ways, the presidency is something of a thankless job. Things you wanted to do didn’t get done or there was deep resistance, or you were outvoted. You don’t get do-overs, and you don’t get to decide how the historians will think of you, no matter how glorious your presidential library turns out to be. You get to keep the honorific titles as a courtesy. Losing candidates also have a hard time accepting reality. Works better if you understand from the beginning the limits of the office. We probably tell our presidents too often that they are the most important man in the world. They are, but only briefly, then it’s over.


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Obama is waiting for the call to become Secretary-General of the U.N.

Or maybe an invitation to be president of Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

Or maybe even some high-paying Fortune 500 board memberships. (He believes that, at some point, you’ve made enough money. He also believes he’s not at that point yet.)

None of which is going to happen, because whatever any of these institutions may have to say in praise of him, all of them have seen what he considers “work”, and look for a little more professionalism, experience, and ability than Obama has ever really exhibited.

I hope Obama spends his book advance money wisely. It’s was a payday that, with all the news coming out about things his administration did (Uranium One, suspending an FBI/DEA investigation into drug smuggling involving Hezbollah, domestic spying on political opponents, etc…) is not likely to come around again.

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Comment by Lon Mead

[…] wrote back on the first of January about former President Obama’s reluctance refusal to return to civilian life, as […]

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