President Obama used his final weekly address in 2016 to make it plainer than ever that he won't retire quietly once Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
Couching his address to the nation as assurance that he will remain committed to defending the "progress" achieved by his administration, the president made it crystal clear that he intends to be a thorn in President Trump's side after the official handover of power on Jan. 20.
Offering the clearest indication yet of his plan to be active on the political scene after he is ostensibly back in private life, Obama said Saturday, "As I prepare to take on the even more important role of citizen, know that I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure that this country forever strives to live up to the incredible promise of our founding — that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve every chance to live out our dreams."
The words were an implicit rebuke of the inequality and retrograde policies that Democrats claim will be on the agenda of Trump and the GOP when they take over a unified Republican government next month.
When Obama expected, and most polls indicated, that Hillary Clinton was going to win the White House, the president suggested that he looked forward to a quiet retirement. But now he says his plans have changed. The unmistakable suggestion is that Obama claims he needs to stay active to guard the nation against Trump's predations.
"I promise you that next year Michelle and I are going to be right there with you, and the clouds are going to start parting and the sun is going to come back out, and we're going to be busy, involved in the amazing stuff that we've been doing all these years before," Obama told supporters in late November. Obama also revealed then that his family plans to stick around Washington, D.C., for a few years while his younger daughter, Sasha, finishes high school.
Many of Obama's main accomplishments and priorities, such as Obamacare and a green agenda hailed by environmental activists, are on Trump's hit list for demolition. Obama and Democrats can see the clear prospect that his legacy will be reduced sharply by the incoming government. Obama's Saturday speech shows that the outgoing president does not intend to stand by and let that happen.
Touting what he claims are gains made in expanding health insurance coverage, job creation, bringing troops back to the U.S. from Afghanistan and Iraq, and killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Obama said that the country has "made extraordinary progress as a country these past eight years."
The Saturday address was a dogged defense of what has been done for or to America since Obama was first sworn into office in January, 2009. He said income is rising, poverty falling and the auto industry is "resurgent." Turning to diplomacy, Obama said, "We shut down Iran's nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids." He also gave a nod to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling to grant nationwide marriage equality.
"We've made extraordinary progress as a country these past eight years," Obama said. "And here's the thing: none of it was inevitable. It was the result of tough choices we made, and the result of your hard work and resilience."
Looking ahead, Obama said the task of moving forward on progress falls to people working together.
Obama thanked Americans for their support and said "almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago."