Barack Obama has been acting like the president, Donald Trump should be. In an interview with Prince Harry, Obama said he believed the problems faced by the world indeed were solvable, and he did not shirk in the face of them.
“If you had to choose a moment in human history in which you’d want to be born you’d choose today because the fact is that the world is healthier, wealthier, better educated and more tolerant, more sophisticated and less violent,” Mr Obama said.
He sounded entirely presidential — and, in one sense, he still is. The chaos that has surrounded Donald Trump’s first year in office has presented his predecessor with an opportunity that no president has received since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s.
Obama, in effect, is serving a third term as president because the wildly unpredictable Mr Trump simply isn’t playing the part that Americans, and the world, have come to expect from a US leader.
Of course, Mr Obama can’t actually serve another term. The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1951, limits a president to two terms.
It was enacted after Roosevelt served an unprecedented four terms, dying in office in 1945 only months after his final term began.
And Mr Obama hasn’t actually anointed himself as a de facto leader.
In fact, he told Prince Harry he felt a sense of “serenity” in watching Mr Trump’s inauguration, satisfied he had accomplished a series of goals such as righting the American economy after a deep recession, and establishing national health care protection.
But it is clear Mr Obama is acting in a way at odds with the understated behaviour displayed by modern former presidents who have rarely tread so soon or deeply into national and global debates.