"It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions that, regardless of party, such courage is still possible," Obama said while accepting a "Profile in Courage" award at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston
. "That today's members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth. Even when it contradicts party positions. I hope that current members of Congress recall that it doesn't take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful."
Obama's plea comes just days after House Republicans took the first step toward dismantling the ACA -- aka Obamacare -- with the narrow passage of the American Health Care Act last Thursday. It also comes on the verge of the Republican-controlled Senate beginning its own consideration of a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
And it sends a strong signal that the 44th president isn't going to simply sit on the sidelines as the 45th President takes apart his signature legislative accomplishment. He's going to not only defend the law but also make the affirmative case for it.
This isn't the first time Obama has weighed in on events during Donald Trump's presidency. In late January, in the wake of Trump's travel ban executive order -- and the protests that almost immediately sprung up -- the former president released a statement
through a spokesman praising the demonstrations as "what we expect to see when American values are at stake."
Obama's willingness to wade into the national conversation -- and offer not-so-oblique criticisms of Trump -- is something of a break from presidential tradition. Typically, ex-presidents largely avoid any sort of engagement on the policies of their successor. George W. Bush, for example, virtually disappeared during Obama's term. (Worth noting: Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, was an early and active critic of Obama.)
Obama, however, clearly feels these are extraordinary times. While he worked hard publicly to ensure that the handoff of power to Trump was orderly and respectful, it's obvious that Obama not only disagrees deeply with his successor's worldview but that he also regards Trump's approach and actions as potentially very dangerous to the country.
And, given those stakes, he can't sit on the sidelines. In fact, Obama said as much in the farewell address he gave in Chicago in January
"Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear," he said at one point. "So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are."
At the end of that speech, Obama promised: "I won't stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain."
He isn't stopping -- particularly with the health care system that bears his names in peril. If the Senate wants to repeal and replace Obamacare, Obama seemed to be saying Sunday night, they're going to have to go through me.