US President Barack Obama asserted on Tuesday that he could win a third term if allowed by the Constitution, but said he was looking forward to life after the presidency, when he will be able to take a walk and spend more time with his family.
As he wrapped up what may be his final trip to Africa while in office, Obama took aim at some of the continent’s gerontocracy and called on long-entrenched leaders to step down, declaring that “nobody should be president for life.” But it led to an off-the-cuff riff about his own improved political standing and his future.
“I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” Obama said, departing from his prepared text in a speech at the African Union. “I think if I ran, I could win.”
“There’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving,” he added. “But the law is the law,” he said, “and no person is above the law, not even the president.”
The comments reflect a bitter issue in Africa: the attempts by some leaders to hold onto power well beyond their terms expire. Just this month, the president of Burundi pushed through with elections that gave him a third term in office, throwing his nation into upheaval in a move widely regarded as violating the country’s constitution and a peace agreement that ended a devastating civil war.
Expanding on the topic, Obama went on to discuss the benefits of leaving the White House. “I’ll be honest with you,” he said, “I’m looking forward to life after being president. I won’t have such a big security detail all the time. It means I can go take a walk. I can spend time with my family. I can find other ways to serve. I can visit Africa more often.”
The sense of liberation Obama forecast in his post-presidential life reflected the frustration he felt on this four-day trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. While in Kenya, the land of his father, he was forced to stay in tightly controlled, better secured facilities and venues, unable to visit the village where his family came from or explore Nairobi, which he last visited in 2006. His step-grandmother told reporters that she urged him to come to the family village to pray at his father’s grave. He later told reporters that a dinner with relatives was spent “begging for forgiveness” that he could not be with them more.
In boasting that he could win another term if the 22nd Amendment did not forbid it, Obama mirrored comments President Bill Clinton has made in the past. But unlike Clinton, who often said he would have loved to have remained as president, Obama echoed his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, in talking wistfully of what he was looking forward to after leaving office.