The Barack Obama Post-White House Era: Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

One of the best looks at Barack Obama’s post-presidency so far was published over the weekend courtesy of New York’s Gabriel Debenedetti.  The story touches on everything from Obama’s decision to largely stay out of the political fray, his lucrative post-presidential business opportunities, writing his presidential memoir, and his behind-the-scenes efforts to save Obamacare. The whole thing is well worth reading.

Poll: Trump Leads Holder 37-21

President Donald Trump leads former attorney general Eric Holder 37-21 in a hypothetical matchup, with 41 percent of voters undecided, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll.  Holder underperforms a generic Democrat who, in another poll, is ahead of President Trump 44-36, with 20 percent undecided.

Democrats are divided about the former attorney general as a prospective presidential candidate. Fifty-two percent of Democrats were undecided when asked about a Trump-Holder matchup, compared to 42 percent who said they would support Holder.

Holder said he was considering a presidential run during an interview with MSNBC last April. He also traveled to New Hampshire in May, during which he spoke and took questions at “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics – a traditional stop for presidential aspirants.  Holder has said he remains focused on his work with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

John Kerry Signs Deal For His Memoir

This was announced today in Publisher’s Weekly:

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will publish a memoir with Simon & Schuster. Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint, and Bob Bender, v-p and executive editor, who will edit the book, acquired world publishing rights in all formats from Robert B. Barnett of Williams & Connolly. No publication date has yet been set. The book will also be published by Simon & Schuster’s international companies in Australia, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, and in audiobook by Simon & Schuster Audio.

Kerry was represented by Bob Barnett, the same Washington uber-lawyer who has negotiated book deals for the Obamas, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, and many other national political figures. In addition to his tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State, I assume the book will also cover his 2004 presidential run and his Senate career.

Biden Foundation Launches

Twelve days after leaving office, former vice president Joe Biden announced the launch of the Biden Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, it will “build upon Vice President and Dr. Biden’s lifelong commitment to protect and advance the rights and opportunities of all people through educational programming and public policy analysis.”

The statement from Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden:

Wilmington, DE – My dad used to have an expression: “It’s a lucky person who gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do and thinks it still matters.” Jill and I have been very lucky these past decades.  We look forward to this new chapter where we will continue our work to ensure that everyone—no matter their income level, race, gender, age, or sexuality— is treated with dignity and gets a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. That’s why we are honored that a group of long-time friends and supporters have begun the work of founding the Biden Foundation to build on our lifelong commitment to issues that have always motivated us.

The foundation’s work will focus on foreign policy, cancer research, and ending violence against women, and other issues.

One interesting point on the Biden Foundation website: it will not accept donations from foreign citizens, organizations or countries. This is presumably a response to the fundraising practices of the Clinton Foundation which caused so much controversy during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Obama Foundation Hires White House Political Director as CEO

The Obama Foundation announced the hiring of White House political director David Simas as Chief Executive Officer. According to the foundation’s press release, Simas will join the foundation’s leadership team and help work on the creation of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. According to Simas’s biography in the announcement:

A Taunton, Massachusetts native, David Simas received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stonehill College and a doctor of law degree from Boston College Law School. In 2007, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. In 2009, Simas joined the Obama Administration as a Deputy Assistant to the President, working with senior advisors David Axelrod and David Plouffe. He then served as Director of Opinion Research for President Obama’s re-election. Simas most recently served as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. He lives in Washington with his wife Shauna and two daughters, Payton and Rowan.

Comments from Simas himself, via Twitter:

Obama Says He Will Help Democrats Rebuild After Leaving Office

This comment came up during President Obama’s press conference on Friday. From the White House transcript:

What I’ve said is, is that I can maybe give some counsel and advice to the Democratic Party.  And I think that that the thing we have to spend the most time on — because it’s the thing we have the most control over — is how do we make sure that we are showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard and where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte-sipping, politically-correct, out-of-touch folks.  We have to be in those communities.  And I’ve seen that when we are in those communities, it makes a difference.

That’s how I became President.  I became a U.S. senator not just because I had a strong base in Chicago, but because I was driving around downstate Illinois and going to fish frys and sitting in VFW halls and talking to farmers.  And I didn’t win every one of their votes, but they got a sense of what I was talking about, what I cared about, that I was for working people, that I was for the middle class, that the reason I was interested in strengthening unions, and raising the minimum wage, and rebuilding our infrastructure, and making sure that parents had decent childcare and family leave was because my own family’s history wasn’t that different from theirs, even if I looked a little bit different.  Same thing in Iowa.

And so the question is, how do we rebuild that party as a whole so that there’s not a county in any state — I don’t care how red — that we don’t have a presence and we’re not making the argument.  Because I think we have the better argument.  But that requires a lot of work.  It’s been something that I’ve been able to do successfully in my own campaigns.  It is not something I’ve been able to transfer to candidates in midterms and sort of build a sustaining organization around.  That’s something that I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House.

And that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done.  And I think there are going to be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values who are going to be leading the charge in the years to come.

In recent history, the norm has been for the outgoing president to stay quiet (or at the very least, keep a low profile) after leaving office. In addition to the lingering effects of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton left office under a cloud after a controversial series of presidential pardons at the end of his presidency. George W. Bush’s poll numbers were in the low 30s by the time he left office due to a combination of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and the collapse of the housing market – all three of which happened during his second term. (Caveat: the Iraq war began in Bush’s first term, but the political and security situation on the ground started going south during his second term).

Obama is in a unique position in that he is in a much better situation than his predecessors. President Obama’s approval ratings are in the high 50s – he will leave office with Reagan-esque poll numbers. He is also popular and respected within the Democratic Party, somebody who can appeal to most of the factions vying for control and direction right now as he prepares to leave office four weeks from now. The fact that he was so successful in both his presidential runs means that he has created a model for others to follow – one that Hillary Clinton was not successful at replicating.

He will probably have some say in the form and shape the party take as the opposition for the next few years, though he will probably allow Democrats running for DNC chairman now and the primaries three years from now to let them sort things out for themselves.  He also has a vested interest in rebuilding the party, because Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans’ agenda will consist in large part on trying to undo or erase much of Obama’s legacy – Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the Paris climate change agreement, etc. Republicans will complain that Obama should give Trump the same courtesy of silence that George W. Bush gave him, but that argument ignores the fact that Dick Cheney was one of his most blistering critics in the opposition.

Keep an eye out for Obama around sometime next spring, after he has presumably taken a long vacation and settled into life as a private citizen again.

Former Obama White House Aide Announces Run for DNC Vice Chair

New York State Assembly member Michael Blake tweeted this yesterday:

Blake – a veteran of both Obama presidential campaigns and the Obama White House – points out in his campaign biography, “I have worked – and won – at the grassroots organizing level in several states, including Iowa in 2008, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan (winning all 7 down ballot races), Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.” That will be a crucial skill for any Democrat with national aspirations – either at the presidential level or who simply wants to be involved in the decisionmaking at that level – while being the minority party in Washington for at least the next two years.  Read his platform here.