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Liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank implored former President Barack Obama to step back into the political arena Tuesday, declaring his country “desperately needs” him “to mobilize Americans in defense of democracy.”
In the column, Milbank fawned over the “fit and vigorous” former president following his first visit to the White House since leaving office in 2017, declaring it reminded him of Obama’s “once-in-a-generation talent,” and claiming there was no one better to help “the cause.”
“Retirement has been good to Barack Obama. The 44th president returned to the White House Tuesday for the first time since he left office five years ago. Fit and vigorous, if a bit grayer and more wrinkly,” Milbank wrote.
Obama visited the White House on Tuesday for an event commemorating the 12th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and quickly became the center of attention, leaving Biden in his wake as he made his rounds joking and laughing with prominent Democrats fixated on his presence.
Milbank noted that Obama reminded the crowd during the visit that he was now “a private citizen” and “outside the arena.”
“Therein lies the problem. President Obama: Your country needs you. Democracy is on the ropes. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the ship of state, and no one is better able to help the cause than Obama,” he wrote.
Milbank notably compared Obama and Biden, not just based on physical appearance, but also on differences in demeanor and ability.
“America desperately needs Obama in the arena — although not necessarily in the Biden White House,” he wrote. “The 60-year-old former president’s hour in the East Room brought back the memories of his once-in-a-generation talent, and inevitably invited comparisons to his less charismatic and much older successor. Biden still seemed to be playing Obama’s understudy.”
“Where Obama was loose, Biden was stiff, standing with hands clasped before him and his lips forming a tight line,” he added, before describing how Obama told jokes throughout the event with what he described as “that Obama cadence,” while Biden coughed and blew his nose.
He went on to suggest Obama stole the show from Biden, and that the latter “played second fiddle” to the former throughout the event.
Milbank then blamed Republicans for what he saw as undermining democracy. He cited the questioning of the results of the 2020 presidential election, the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and state-level election integrity bills that he claimed were “rolling back voting rights.”
“Obama hasn’t been entirely silent,” Milbank wrote, describing Obama’s failed efforts to help elect Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia last year, as well as advising House Democrats on how they should approach the upcoming midterm elections.
“But as a celebrated former president, and the first Black president, he’s in an unrivaled position to mobilize Americans in defense of democracy. This is no time to be outside the arena,” he added.