All presidents leave notes to their successors. But Obama’s note was a longer, 4-point letter. Apparently Trump cherishes the letter because he is reported to show it to his Oval Office visitors. But, now with Obama’s letter published, we can ask how well Trump heeds Obama’s advice.
First, here is the letter as published by CNN.com.
Dear Mr. President -
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.
Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.
Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions – like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties – that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.
And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches.
Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.
Good luck and Godspeed,
And now we can ask how well Trump has done.
(1) “build more ladders of success for every child and family”? Not so well. He favored taking 20 million+ off of health care. His tax “reform” is a give-away to the most wealthy. He favors school vouchers which will benefit wealthy families while damaging our public education system.
(2) “American leadership … through action and example, to sustain the international order”? He pulled us out of the Paris climate change accord. He’s insulted other heads of state (Australia, Mexico). His support for NATO is lukewarm at best.
(3) “temporary occupants of this office … makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions – like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties … it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”? Trump has flaunted his disdain for Congress and the Judiciary while behaving autocratically. He defends the violent right wing by pronouncing violence on “many sides” in the aftermath of Charlottesville. His closest advisor at this writing is Stephen Miller - the right wing zealot who is acknowledged to freak out just about everyone other than Trump.
(4) “take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family”? I guess so, if you count his golf games as time for friends and family. His family ties are not serving him well. Don Jr.’s meeting? Kushner’s business interests?
If you take Obama’s letter as a challenge, a benchmark, a set of goals, Trump comes up short on each point.
Read the CNN report for what other presidents have written to their successors.