Republican officials said Sunday it was disappointing to see both President Obama break the past example of recent ex-presidents by re-entering the political scene last week with a stinging rebuke of his successor, and for Mr. Obama to try to take credit for a burgeoning economy under President Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence said the American people rejected the policies of Mr. Obama in the 2016 election and that it was “very disappointing” to see him break with other past presidents who have shied away from commenting on the tenure of their successors.
“To have President Obama come out and tout his policies that resulted in less than 2 percent growth, saw tax increases, Obamacare regulation and doubling the national debt it was very disappointing but frankly I think it just illuminates the choice the American people had in the midterm elections,” Mr. Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”
In a speech last week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mr. Obama had urged the audience to remember when the economic recovery started.
“I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers, and, suddenly, Republicans are saying, ‘it’s a miracle.’ I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016,” the former president said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that wasn’t true, and that the economy under Mr. Trump has grown 40 percent faster.
“I saw that joke on the internet — he’s like the guy trying to open the jar. He can’t. He hands it to President Trump. President Trump opens the jar, and he said, I loosened it for you,” said Mr. McCarthy on Fox Business Network’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
The California Republican pointed to former President George W. Bush, who generally declined to weigh in on Mr. Obama’s tenure after he left office in 2009, as someone who “let somebody be president.”
“The idea that he doesn’t take the respect of past presidents — you never saw George Bush going out talking in a campaign,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Last week, Mr. Obama praised American accomplishments but said there is a darker side to progress when politicians peddle resentment and mistrust to preserve the status quo.
“It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” he said. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”
Mr. Obama explained that he did plan on following precedent “to gracefully exit” the political stage, but speaks now as a citizen.
“As a fellow citizen — not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen — I’m here to deliver a simple message and that is: you need to vote because our democracy depends on it,” he told students.
He also went after Mr. Trump’s recent statements about the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents,” Mr. Obama said.
Last week, Mr. Trump pointed out that the recently announced indictments of GOP Reps. Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, two of his early supporters, came soon before the midterm elections and said the developments could hurt Republicans’ chances of holding the seats.
“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff ” the president tweeted.
Mr. Trump also shot back shortly after Mr. Obama’s fiery rebuke wrapped up, telling the audience at a rally that he “fell asleep” while watching it.
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