Both former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed President Donald Trump last week, marking the earliest time a former president attacked a sitting president in recent political history.
Obama slammed Trump for pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement on climate change Thursday, calling the new administration an “absence of American leadership.”
“But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got,” Obama said Thursday according to The Hill.
Clinton joined the former president in attacking the current president. She asserted that Trump’s proposed budget cuts were an “unimaginable cruelty” to the American people before claiming that the 45th president was an authoritarian dictator.
“When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” Clinton said during a commencement address on May 26. “This is not hyperbole, it is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done.”
This is the first time a former president attacked his successor so early in the new administration in the last 30 years. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford each waited much longer before they became politically active against the new administration, if at all, according to a historical analysis conducted by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Former President George W. Bush didn’t get involved in attacking President Obama for nearly the entire eight years he was in office. The first political activity of the president was to informally back Republican Governor Mitt Romney for president in 2012 against Obama, but he didn’t make any public negative statements about the 44th president.
That’s not to say that Bush wasn’t active in other areas of his life. He maintained a very active speaking schedule but chose to speak on motivational topics, often choosing to dodge questions from reporters about politics. He mainly focused on speaking at local motivational events as well as some non-partisan-based events with former President Bill Clinton.
Former President Bill Clinton also largely stayed out of the spotlight during the first four years of Bush’s tenure in the White House. The administration requested that Clinton serve as the special envoy for tsunami relief in Asia in 2005, and Bush asked the former president to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in his stead in April of 2005.
President George H.W. Bush waited nearly six years before he became involved in politics. Bush 41 claimed that Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan was influential in his loss during an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 1998.
“I think that if the interest rates had been lowered more dramatically that I would have been re-elected president because the [economic] recovery that we were in would have been more visible,” Mr. Bush told interviewer David Frost at the time. “I reappointed him, and he disappointed me.”
The former president famously said, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” during a campaign speech but was ultimately unable to keep to his promise, leading to his loss in the 1992 election.
It should be noted that former President Ronald Reagan made a very political announcement a few days after Bush 41 took office. The president issued a proposed legislative agenda during remarks to the University of California student body in February of 1989.
The key difference between Reagan’s actions and Obama’s or Clinton’s is that H.W. Bush was largely seen as an extension of Reagan foreign and domestic policy, and the former president was largely supportive of Bush’s agenda.
Former President Jimmy Carter was the most aggressive former president in the last 30 years according to the analysis, but even he waited a year and a half before he accused President Reagan of making “radical” changes, and blaming his mistakes on his predecessors in October 1982.
“We did not spend four years blaming our mistakes on our predecessors,” Carter said of his own administration. “There is always the temptation for an incumbent politician to blame all his mistakes on his predecessor. Most are willing to withstand the temptation. Mr. Reagan, apparently, is not.”
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