On Sunday, Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to the class of 2016 at Rutgers University. Much of the speech was an assault on one of the candidates who hopes to replace him in 2017, GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
Obama set up his argument as a contrast between the kind of man he views Trump to be with the sort of person you want as commander-in-chief — someone like, say, himself. In his own commentary on the speech, Vox’s Ezra Klein writes:
Watching this speech, you could see just how much Obama wants to run against Trump. In a sense, the men are opposites: the cerebral, optimistic, inclusive tribune of a younger, more multicultural America against the instinctual, pessimistic, exclusive champion of a whiter, male-dominated power structure.
No doubt this is how Obama sizes up the difference himself. Yet, every swipe he took at Trump just ricocheted back. At one point, he observed:
When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.
This from a man who — to cite one example — set a red line for Syria in 2012 and then denied having done so a year later when the Assad regime crossed that line.
At another point in the speech Obama identified the “qualities you want in people making policy.” He enumerated these: “Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science.”
If this comment reveals anything, it is how little he has matured and learned since he promised during his inaugural speech in 2009 to “restore science to its rightful place.”
He has shown time and again that science to him is nothing more than a political weapon to be used to bludgeon those subscribing to alternate hypotheses. It is not an open-ended inquiry.
He cites science, moreover, only when he believes it helps promote his agenda — and even then, he ignores science when he deems it expedient to do so. He continues, for example, to cling stubbornly to the myth that women earn approximately two thirds of what men do in the workplace even though studies abound that suggest this is mythical. Similarly, he soldiers on in his crusade to combat global warming despite recent research that indicates he is tilting in windmills.
Or take the science on gender identification, which does not comport with the popular liberal flag-waving view Obama has come to adopt. Paul McHugh, formerly psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which pioneered sex-change surgery, has argued that “transgendered men do not become women” or vice versa. Rather, they simply become “feminized men” or “masculinized women.”
What is ultimately most interesting about the president’s war of words on the presumptive Republican nominee is that in a very real sense Trump is a creature of his making. Trump could never have amassed the the following he has if it weren’t in reaction to Obama’s own radical attempts to transform the nation to a European-style democracy in the first place.
Obama has denied that he is responsible for the rise of Trump, but that’s just him once again doing what he accuses Trump of doing: denying accountability.