From the Iran deal to TPP to climate change, the whole thing that animates and unites his policy views is antipathy towards Obama
When Donald Trump pulled out of the deal to curb Irans nuclear ambitions, hardline conservatives celebrated, European leaders winced and Barack Obama made a rare, lengthy public statement.
Trumps decision was misguided and a serious mistake, Obama said, as his signature foreign policy achievement was tossed away.
It was just the latest example of Trumps all-out assault on the Obama legacy. From climate change to criminal justice to international relations, rarely has one occupant of the Oval Office appeared so obsessed with taking a chainsaw to the work of another.
Tommy Vietor, a former national security council spokesman under Obama, told the Guardian: The whole thing that animates and unites his policy views is antipathy towards Obama. Its fucking pathetic. Hes a vindictive person so there is an element of this that is about sticking it to Obama. He knows, probably better than anyone, how to find all the Republican erogenous zones because he spent years whipping people into a frenzy and telling lies about Obama.
From the start, it has been hard to imagine two men more different than Obama, 56, a mixed-race intellectual married to one woman for a quarter of a century, and Trump, 71, a white, thrice married businessman and reality TV star who has boasted about grabbing womens private parts. One reads books voraciously; the other, it is said, barely reads at all. There were few reasons for their paths to ever cross except, perhaps, on a golf course, their one common passion.
But then came the 2011 White House Correspondents Association dinner. Trump, pushing a racially charged conspiracy theory questioning whether the president was born in America, was among the tuxedo-wearing guests. Obama mocked his nascent political ambitions without mercy. Obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience, he said, recalling an episode of Celebrity Apprentice in which the mens cooking team fell short and Trump fired actor Gary Busey.
And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night, the president continued to roars of laughter. Well handled, sir. Well handled. Say what you will about Mr Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House. Lets see what weve got up there.
The room erupted as Obama pointed to a Photoshopped image of the then fantastical idea of a Trump White House, with three extra storeys, a giant TRUMP sign, a hotel, casino and golf course, a giant crystal chandelier, four gold columns and two women in swimwear drinking cocktails in the north lawn fountain.
Four years later, Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker magazine would recall: Trumps humiliation was as absolute, and as visible, as any I have ever seen: his head set in place, like a man in a pillory, he barely moved or altered his expression as wave after wave of laughter struck him he sat perfectly still, chin tight, in locked, unmovable rage.
Future historians may well ask: was this the moment that Trump resolved to storm the White House and tear down the Obama legacy?
For sure, from the day he formally launched his election campaign in June 2015, branding Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, he cast himself as the anti-Obama in style and substance. His act enraptured rightwing media and the Republican base, who saw Trump as a vessel into which they could pour their hopes and frustrations. David Litt, a former speechwriter for Obama, said this week: Its not only Trump who says, If Obama is for it, Im against it. This was the guiding philosophy for eight years of the Obama administration. Trump is a catalyst of the movement but hes also a product of it.