In Depth

Barack Obama avoids Trump accusations as he returns to spotlight

'So, uh, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?' quips former US president

Former US president Barack Obama has made his first public appearance since leaving office - but any anticipation he would strike back against Donald Trump was misplaced.

What might have been a moment for Obama to challenge Trump’s wiretapping accusations, or the Republican agenda, "instead became a college seminar on how to engage with a new generation of young people — and urge them to participate in political life," said the New York Times.

"The single most important thing I can do,” the former president told an audience of students and activists at the University of Chicago, is to “help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world."

On the whole Obama’s delivery was laid back and jovial, beginning with a quick joke about the propensity of news since he left office.

Despite his apparent reticence to refer to President Trump in the slightest, "if you listened carefully, (Obama's) remarks were studded with pointed counterweights to Trumpism," says the Washington Post.

"While Trump uses rhetoric to stoke resentment, Obama emphasised how we can reduce resentments — and potentially create political solutions — by simply listening to one another," the paper added.

For the most part, Obama played the role of moderator in asking what could be done to get more students involved with their communities.

The only question the former president responded to that appeared to touch upon the issues of the day, was about "working with immigrants who may be afraid to come out of the shadows given the Trump administration's rhetoric," notes Time magazine.

"Immigration is a good example of an issue that stirs up so much passion and sometimes misinformation that it's hard for us to have a healthy conversation about it," Obama answered.

Politico writes: "Trump represents not just a challenge to what Obama put in place during his eight years in office, but also to his sense of American politics."

Despite this, the former president's decision to not challenge Trump publically is a calculated one on the part of Obama's advisors, says the New York Times.

"If Obama were to challenge the president directly, they believe, the former president would become a foil for Trump’s efforts to rally his supporters," the paper writes.

"That could end up helping Trump enact policies that Obama opposes."

Obama's first public appearance since leaving office was perhaps most striking as a depiction of just how different the 44th and 45th presidents truly are.

"Obama and Trump share nothing - not background, not political view, not anything - in common," says CNN's editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.

"How could the public elect two men in consecutive elections who share so little in their beliefs about what's wrong with the country and how to fix it? I'm not sure," he writes.

"But my guess is ever-increasing political polarisation coupled with a barely-voiced truth that many people aren't entirely sure what they want from their government has a lot to do with it."

Recommended

‘Pubs in last chancellor saloon’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Pubs in last chancellor saloon’

Salami made from celebrities ‘sign of Biblical apocalypse’
Chopped salami
Tall Tales

Salami made from celebrities ‘sign of Biblical apocalypse’

Has the US ever had Covid under control?
Joe Biden addresses the nation on his Covid-19 relief package
Today’s big question

Has the US ever had Covid under control?

Government criticised for cutting aid to ‘poverty superpower’ Yemen
Starving Yemeni child
In Brief

Government criticised for cutting aid to ‘poverty superpower’ Yemen

Popular articles

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 March 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 March 2021

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Line of Duty series six returns to BBC One in 2021
In Depth

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Are Harry and Meghan pushing it with their request for press privacy?
Harry and Meghan
The latest on . . .

Are Harry and Meghan pushing it with their request for press privacy?