Gabriel Debenedetti sets out to answer a question raised in the headline of a lengthy piece in New York magazine: "Where Is Barack Obama?" In one sense, the answer is easy: He's traveling the world giving speeches, having visited every continent but Antarctica since leaving office. But in the larger sense of the question—why isn't Obama taking a more visible role as a critic of President Trump?—the answer is more complicated. For one thing, Obama is abiding by the George W. Bush policy of avoiding criticism of his predecessor to respect the transition. But the gist of the piece also suggests that Obama isn't as worried as many on the left are about the long game. "Zen-like" is one descriptor used by a friend—with the risk being that the strategy will eventually be seen as "a poorly timed abdication of leadership," writes Debenedetti.
"In conversations with political allies, Obama insists that today’s domestic mess is a blip on the long arc of history and argues that his own work must be focused on progress over time—specifically on empowering a new generation of leaders," writes Debenedetti. In fact, friends say Obama rarely talks about Trump in private. One recalls being in the same room with Obama and watching on TV as Trump pronounced himself absolved in the Russia investigation. "Obama’s eyes flicked toward the chyron and his face took on a decidedly bemused aspect for a beat before he turned back to their conversation as if nothing had happened." One thing that nearly prompted Obama to speak out: Trump's controversial speech to the Boy Scouts, because the audience was so young. Click for the full story, which recounts a strategic call Obama placed ahead of an ObamaCare vote. (Read more Longform stories.)