Of all the people you'd expect to come to the defense of Barack Obama, Donald Trump probably doesn't top your list. But as you may have noticed, nothing makes sense anymore, so here we are. Thursday morning the President of these United States tweeted: "Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!"
First of all, how dare Chelsea Manning call Barack Obama a weak leader--that's something only Donald Trump can do. Repeatedly. Second, it appears that Trump is just echoing Fox News, again, which is something we all should address sooner than later.
Trump's dander was raised apparently by an op-ed the Wikileaks whistleblower, shortly after Obama commuted her sentence as one of his final actions in office. In The Guardian, Manning writes that Obama left a "vulnerable legacy" with "very few permanent accomplishments," citing his attempts to be a fair and balanced leader:
Now, after eight years of attempted compromise and relentless disrespect in return, we are moving into darker times. Healthcare will change for the worse, especially for those of us in need. Criminalization will expand, with bigger prisons filled with penalized bodies - poor, black, brown, queer and trans people. People will probably be targeted because of their religion. Queer and trans people expect to have their rights infringed upon.
The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama's legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won't meet you in the middle.
It's a familiar argument from even the most ardent of Obama's supporters, and one that is being played out with Trump's recent executive orders on immigration and the Keystone/Dakota Access pipelines, as well as the GOP's mad dash to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without any plan to replace it.
But it's also a problematic argument. Some say Obama compromised too much, still others say he didn't compromise enough, that he didn't attempt to reach across the aisle as often as he should have. What both those arguments fail to recognize is that those are the shortcomings of a politician--compromise was how Obama succeeded as a community organizer, how he got elected and re-elected president, and the lesson that he teaches to younger generations.
"You can't refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position," Obama said to a group of black activists in early 2016. "The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room, and then start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved. You then have a responsibility to prepare an agenda that is achievable--that can institutionalize the changes you seek--and to engage the other side."
That strategy works, to a point, for Obama, ever the optimist, but it's also never a great idea to place all your hopes into one person. While Manning argues that for true change to take place we need "an unapologetic progressive leader" she also concedes that we need to stop asking for our rights and instead "take the reins" to fix the government. "We need to save lives," she concludes, "by making change at every level."