- - Monday, January 30, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama promised no “popping off” when he flew to California for another vacation — his second within a month — minutes after Donald Trump was sworn in as his successor. But he learned that promises are hard to keep.

He had no sooner read in the papers that the new president had moved quickly to do something about the immigration mess he inherited than the former president felt the urge to pop off with a misleading version of events.

A spokesman for Mr. Obama said the former president “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

President Trump’s executive order may have been right, it may have been issued too soon, and it may have been too broad. All that is subject to honest debate. But it does not discriminate against anyone’s faith or religion, and a former professor and a former president must surely know that. But it does fit nicely into the worldwide demand to pillory the new president.

“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,” the ex-president’s spokesman said. That’s certainly true, and one of those values is the security of the nation.

Mr. Trump’s executive order applies to seven countries identified by Barack Obama’s administration as most likely to be the source of terrorists with a deadly grudge against America and the West. The seven suspicious nations are predominantly Islamic, but the ban was ordered against nations, not against individuals. It applies to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and even Whirling Dervishes in the seven suspicious nations. It applies only 90 days.

Mr. Obama went further than merely popping off, by encouraging the protests in several cities. Some protesters are no doubt driven by anger and regret of the turmoil in airports, but many are using the occasion to demonstrate their insatiable anger that Donald Trump is the president. They’re determined to not like everything he does. The phenomenon is all but unprecedented in the nation’s history, and Mr. Obama popping off encourages the notion held by many Democrats that “Trump is not my president.”

“I want to be respectful of the office,” Mr. Obama said before his time in the White House ran out, “and give [him] an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance.”

That was a generous and worthwhile promise, and Mr. Obama ought to keep it, both for the sake of the new administration and for the legacy and reputation of the man who made it. He should look to the examples set by George Bush, father and son; Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. They’ve held their tongues, difficult as it sometimes may be, and Barack Obama should, too. How can we miss him when he won’t go away?

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