CLAIM: Former President Barack Obama is the first president to speak out against his successor.
THE FACTS: Several former presidents have made comments criticizing the policies of their successors, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter — even Theodore Roosevelt.
On Sunday, Trump retweeted a tweet that included the false claim: “Barack Hussain Obama is the first Ex-President to ever speak against his successor, which was long tradition of decorum and decency,” the tweet stated, misspelling Obama’s middle name, which is Hussein. In his retweet, Trump asserted that “he got caught.” During a private call last Friday with former members of his administration, Obama criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it an “absolute chaotic disaster.” A recording of the call was obtained by Yahoo News. Obama also discussed the Justice Department dropping its criminal case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying he worried that the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”
Although there is a traditional reluctance among presidents to criticize a successor, Obama is not the first president to do so. “Historically, recent presidents do not attack sitting presidents that often and when they do, they are measured,” Peter Loge, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor who focuses on political communication, agreed. “When presidents have criticized other presidents, they tend to do so while not naming them,” she said, noting that such criticism would generally be made in private.
In April 2015, former President George W. Bush was seen as criticizing successor Obama during a closed-door Republican Jewish Coalition meeting, quoting Sen. Lindsey Graham's comments on Obama’s policies in the region: “Pulling out of Iraq was a strategic blunder.” Former President Clinton criticized the administration of his successor, George W. Bush, over its Iraq policy: “The point is, there is no military victory here,” he told Good Morning America in July 2007. Former President Jimmy Carter ripped successor Ronald Reagan for sending arms to Iran in hopes that Americans held captive in Lebanon would be released. Carter said Reagan mishandled the Iran-Contra affair and is ″making believe he’s telling the truth″ to the American people about it. President Theodore Roosevelt called successor William H. Taft a traitor of reform, and criticized him for not advancing his progressive policies. Experts noted that Trump’s rhetoric around former presidents has gone far beyond the norm, particularly his criticism of Obama on social media and at political rallies.