Apparently out of nowhere Monday morning, President Donald Trump launched into multiple bizarre and ridiculous Twitter attacks on his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Still sour about the Russia investigation and the ongoing probes into his businesses and conduct, he demanded that House Democrats investigate Obama’s book deal and partnership with Netflix, despite no signs of impropriety of any reason Congress should be interested in these matters. It was, obviously, a desperate ploy to suggest that he’s being unfairly targeted and that his perceived enemies are getting away with corruption, even as he continues to run the most corrupt and conflicted administrations in modern history.
Trump later added: “These Radical Left Democrats are CRAZY! Obama Netflix?”
He also quoted from a New York Times article noting that he has confirmed 150 judges in his time in office, “far outstripping President Barack Obama’s pace.” This is, indeed, true, but it’s almost entirely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s doing, not Trump’s — McConnell stonewalled Obama’s attempts to appoint judges for years and has rocketed forward with appointments since 2017. The majority leader would surely have done the same under any GOP president.
So what’s going on with Trump’s morning attacks on Obama? While the trigger wasn’t clear, CNN legal analyst Asha Rangappa has argued that the underlying motivation is obvious.
On Sept. 8, while Trump was in the midst of another out-of-left-field attack on Obama, she observed:
She added: “Envy and jealousy are related emotions, but different: Jealousy arises when we fear a threat to our personal relationships. It’s rooted more in a sense of betrayal or deceit, rather than a lack of recognition from others (Trump has both, but in this case I’d say it’s envy).”
Tara Setmeyer, another CNN contributor, pointed out Rangappa’s explanation in light of Trump’s tweets on Monday.
“Trump’s pathological obsession with Obama and his Netflix deal explained perfectly by the great [Asha Rangappa],” she wrote. “It’s all about ENVY. Insecurity. Narcissism.”
This pattern extends beyond Trump’s twitter attacks (which also infamously included the ridiculous and baseless claim that Obama had Trump Tower’s wires tapped.) Observers have argued that many of Trump’s presidential actions — breaking the Iran deal, pulling out of the Paris climate accord, trying to repeal Obamacare — have been, in part, motivated by deep antipathy toward Obama.
And there are concrete reasons why Trump may both hate and envy Obama right now. The current president’s approval rating is and has remained consistently underwater, with 41.8 percent approving and 53.6 percent disapproving, according to the most recent data from FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregator. Meanwhile, Obama left office with an approval rate of 59 percent and a disapproval of 37 percent, per Gallup. Since then, Obama’s approval appears to have risen even further, with 63 percent approving of his job in office retrospectively in 2018.
Of course, in harboring this deep dislike of Obama, Trump is very much like his base voters. That’s driven some of the opposition to his policies — the individual mandate, the most hated part of Obamacare, was originally a Republican idea. Republican partisans have a deeply venomous view of Obama, often for vague or hypocritical reasons, taking him to task for supposed wrongs that they ignore when committed by Trump. But as polarization has spiked in American life, it seems unavoidable that presidents, as a de facto leaders of their party, will inevitably inspire fierce opposition in voters on the side of the aisle. Whether this emotional opposition will so clearly occupy the minds of future presidents as it does Trump is less certain and dependent on the character of the nominees promoted by each party.