I won’t say that I miss the Obamas every day, but that’s only because I won’t allow myself to think of the Obamas every day, or else I’ll get so sad that I might really start crying. That’s happened more than once. I have been thinking about President Obama a lot in the past few weeks, mostly when some fresh hell opens up in the Trump White House and I think, “Gee, I wonder what the reaction would have been if Obama had pulled even one tenth of what Trump has done?” Well, People Magazine is leaning into the Obama nostalgia, which is why they put this lovely photo of the Obamas on this week’s cover. You might think that Barry and Michelle sat down for a breezy interview with People, but they did not. People Mag spoke to sources close to the Obamas for this exclusive:
Cool, even-keeled, no-drama Barack Obama is one of the few people in the country who hasn’t publicly opined on the tweets and turmoil wrought by President Trump. And so a persistent question to those close to the former president is: What does Obama really think of the man now occupying the Oval Office?
“He’s nothing but a bullsh–ter,” Obama told two friends early last November, describing an election night phone call with Trump, in which the businessman suddenly professed his “respect” and “admiration” for Obama—after years of hectoring.
Speaking to PEOPLE for its new cover story on Obama and his wife Michelle adjusting to life outside the White House, the two friends quoted Obama’s blunt assessment of President-elect Trump. And how has Obama’s opinion changed since Trump been in office? “Well,” said one of the sources, “it hasn’t gotten any better.” A third source close to Obama tells PEOPLE: “He’s deeply concerned with what he’s seen. But he’s also optimistic and heartened that citizens aren’t just watching it happen but engaging with neighbors and elected representatives at town halls.”
“Bulls—ter,” while head-turning, shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone paying attention to Obama’s 2016 campaign rhetoric on Trump (“unfit,” “woefully unprepared” and “unacceptable”). But the former president has been meticulous since the election about not publicly violating that unwritten code of conduct among ex-presidents that bars criticizing whoever’s currently in the Oval Office.
“He’s very respectful of the appropriate role of a former president and that ex-presidents should not be looking over the shoulder of their successors and commenting on every decision,” says Obama’s long-time friend and political strategist David Axelrod, now director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. “President Obama’s predecessor didn’t do that. Obviously, this now is a unique set of circumstances, but my sense is that he’s going to try and respect that tradition while reserving the right to speak out in given moments when things rise to that level.”
As for the former first lady, she too campaigned forcefully against Trump last fall but has, since his election, not publicly shared her thoughts about him. Privately, is another story. To visitors last December, she joked about needing mourning attire that she would call “the black series.”
“I’m going all black for the next couple of years,” she joked.
I respect the Obamas too much to criticize their actions post-presidency. And realistically, what could President Obama do differently? He served in office with honor and dignity and now he has to watch an orange buffoon burn it all to the ground. I also think Obama has a great deal of respect for the way George W. Bush stayed quiet during his presidency too, but surely Obama realizes that Dubya stayed quiet because Bush actually liked and respected Obama? Obama does not like or respect Trump, is what I’m saying. And the Resistance could use all the help we can get, so please, Mr. Obama, say what’s on your mind!
Cover courtesy of People, additional photos courtesy of Getty.