WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to the news media after meeting with Republicans in the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol January 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was on Capitol Hill working to gain support from Republicans for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, the $825 billion economic recovery package proposed by House Democrats. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What Part of ‘Lame Duck’ Doesn’t Obama Understand?

Apparently President Obama doesn’t understand the meaning of “lame duck.”

In the last month, Obama has taken every opportunity to shove sticks into President-elect Trump’s eyes. Look at the record: a “permanent” arctic and Atlantic drilling ban; another 1.65 million acres in Utah and southern Nevada declared national monuments; a diplomatic backstab at Israel; and now economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia for hacking Democratic Party servers.

The Russian sanctions are particularly troubling, since Russia just announced a deal with Turkey for a nationwide ceasefire in war-torn Syria. How many nations can Obama manage to piss off before Jan. 20?

After telling reporters in his last press conference that Russia didn’t hack the election, Obama accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personal involvement in the hacking.

Obama said the hacking ‘‘could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government,’’ a contention the U.S. has used to suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved.

Although the White House announced at the same time it was kicking out Russian officials and closing facilities, it said those were responses to other troubling Russian behavior: harassment of U.S. diplomats by Russian personnel and police.

Two Russian government compounds are being shut down, one in New York and one in Maryland–with 24 hours notice to vacate. The U.S. is also kicking Russian diplomats out.

The 35 Russian diplomats being kicked out are intelligence operatives, Obama said. The State Department said they were being declared ‘‘persona non grata,’’ and they were given 72 hours to leave the country.

Russia isn’t taking this lying down. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman threatened retaliation for any economic sanctions.

It’s like Obama has pulled the pins from a basket of live grenades and handed the basket to Trump on his way out the door. Classy as usual, Mr. President.

This leaves Trump and the GOP having to unravel a diplomatic situation with Russia, which is almost certainly lying about their role in the DNC hacks. I’m sure they did it. But they didn’t expose anything not already known about Hillary, and they didn’t hack actual election results. This is nothing more than a dangerous game of sour grapes by Obama and his administration.

In fact, many in the GOP would like to see Russia dealt with for its adventurism. But isn’t that, at this point, the role of the incoming administration? Obama’s play is designed to put Trump at odds with his own party. House Speaker Paul Ryan called the action “overdue,” and “a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”

Sen. John McCain had stronger words, that it’s “the sign of a possible unraveling of the world order that was established after World War II.” That’s a bit over the top. Sen. Lindsey Graham called for even harsher sanctions against Russia.

But again, any sanctions should have started with Trump’s administration. Instead, Obama set a bar and left it to Trump to either raise or lower that bar. Either way, Democrats get a free hand to criticize. It’s crass politics, wrapped up in a dangerous tit-for-tat. This isn’t how a lame duck two-term president should end his service to America. Especially one who claimed, on the way out, that he could have beaten Trump if he’d been able to run a third time.

Without a doubt, Obama is loading up Trump’s plate with things to distract him from his own agenda, and then he will sit back and snipe from the safety of being an ex-president. I am not sure we could find a more bitter, petulant and vengeful man than the one leaving the White House. Except maybe the one coming into it.

Come Jan. 20, be prepared to watch the sparks fly.

In a briefing on [the UN Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements] Friday, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said, “On the president-elect, the first thing I’d just say is that there’s one president at a time. President Obama is the president of the United States until Jan. 20, and we are taking this action, of course, as U.S. policy.”

That statement cuts both ways. And in just a few weeks, the new president will have his way.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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