Obama, who is still on vacation with his family after leaving office this month, issued a statement through his spokesman Monday encouraging Americans to publicly protest President Donald Trump’s move to ban citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries – as well as refugees from across the globe – from entering the United States.
He also contested Trump’s claim that Friday’s executive order was based in part on decisions made during his administration, including identifying the same seven countries as harboring terrorism threats and slowing the processing of visas for Iraqis after evidence surfaced that two Iraqis seeking resettlement had been linked to terrorist activity in their homeland.
“With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.
Obama’s decision to speak out – after pledging to do so in rare instances – underscores the predicament he and many of his top advisers find themselves in just days after leaving the White House. While the president repeatedly emphasized the need to ensure a smooth transition and not interfere with the workings of the new administration, the adoption of a policy antithetical to the values he espoused while in office caused him to break his silence.
While some former presidents eventually came to criticize their successors – Theodore Roosevelt broke with William Howard Taft, whom he worked to get elected in 1908 and then ran against four years later – they have generally sought to stay quiet.
Even Roosevelt told Taft after returning from a vacation overseas that while some progressives were disappointed with the new administration’s direction, “I will make no speeches or say anything for two months. But I will keep my mind open . . . as I keep my mouth shut.”
“I don’t think it’s very common at all for an ex-president to be commenting on the performance of his successor,” presidential historian Robert Dallek said. “This current incumbent is so out of sync with what the normal behavior of a president is that it calls for ex-presidents to respond.”