It’s the final word, parting gesture, and last testament that we remember most. Science refers to the phenomenon as “the recency effect,” and it could be bad news for the Obama family.

In two recent exit interviews, the first lady and president exuded a pessimism and arrogance that punctuate the last eight years and threaten to define their legacy. Michelle Obama couldn’t find reason for hope before Christmas. Last week, she told Oprah the nation was experiencing “what not having hope feels like” after Trump’s election.

And for his part, her husband believes he could have saved the nation from that fate if not for the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This week, Obama told David Axelrod he’s “confident” he could’ve “mobilized a majority” to defeat the president-elect, had he been able to campaign once again for re-election and promote his political vision.

Future biographers may give those back-to-back statements more significance than anyone is giving them now. Because, surveying modern history, it’s difficult to find a similar episode in a president said such things at the end of his term.

Back in 2009, President Bush didn’t speculate whether he could have beaten his successor. His first lady didn’t presume to offer gloomy forecasts about national temperament. Instead, the outgoing first family looked forward to the inauguration as a “historic moment for our country.” The Obamas have been notably less graceful.

First draft conclusions show that the Obamas have little faith in representative government and even less in the electorate. The first lady can’t imagine a positive outcome for the country without her husband in the Oval Office while Obama insists he knows better than voters. It’s a bad look and it might be most of what history remembers.

The Obama remarks come as Republicans threaten to wipe away his executive, his legislative, and even his judicial legacy. A GOP Congress is already plotting its assault on his two principal legislative achievements, Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. Trump, the very moment he takes office, will instantly set out to replace the 15 percent of the nation’s judiciary that is already vacant or scheduled to become vacant soon, and to use his pen and phone to undo eight years of Obama’s executive orders.

Even if Republicans fail on some or all of those fronts, the Obamas’ bitter remarks tinge their legacy. They trademarked hope and change to win the White House in 2008. Now in their waning days, they’ve publicly succumbed to pessimism and stagnation. History won’t forget that last impression.

Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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