WASHINGTON — Barack Obama is uncorked and letting it fly.
For 3 1/2 years, he mostly honored the tradition that former presidents do not criticize their successors, even as his norm-breaking successor attacked him relentlessly. Verbally and in more than 3,000 tweets, President Donald Trump ranged from falsely claiming in early 2017 that the "Bad (or sick) guy" tapped his phones to demanding that Obama be prosecuted for spying, treason and just generally being "the most corrupt President in US history."
Now, in the closing days of the 2020 campaign, Obama is having his say, and then some.
Ostensibly he's campaigning to help Joe Biden, his former vice president, especially by spurring turnout among young Americans, Black men and Latinos, whose lack of enthusiasm concerns Democrats.
But he's also stumping for himself and his own maligned legacy.
In three recent solo appearances — in Philadelphia, Miami and Orlando, Florida — Obama has seemed to have more fun than he did campaigning for himself in 2008 and 2012. On Saturday, he and Biden are scheduled to appear together, bringing their bromance to the battleground state of Michigan for drive-in rallies in Flint and Detroit.
The crowds are small and socially distanced at these drive-in gatherings, in keeping with the pandemic precautions that distinguish the Biden campaign from Trump's larger, but riskier, rallies. Yet when Obama bounded onto each outdoor stage to U2's "City of Blinding Lights," casual in open-collar shirts with rolled-up sleeves, he removed his black mask as if ripping away a metaphorical muzzle he's worn since Trump's inauguration.
Out comes pent-up payback for years of unanswered attacks — to the cheers, honks and amens of his crowds.
Trump "hasn't shown any interest in doing the work, or helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency as anything more than a reality show that can give him the attention he craves," Obama told the Orlando crowd Tuesday. "And he does crave attention!"
Just this week, "he was fussin' about the crowd size at the inauguration again, saying his was bigger," Obama went on, smiling widely.