Obama breaks his silence
In blistering broadside, former president paints Trump as bad for democracy
TWO OF BARACK OBAMA’S most notable speeches didn’t take place during his presidency, or even during his own campaigns. But both marked a crossroads. During the first — at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston— the nation faced decisions on how to move forward in multiple, deadly wars in a post-9/11 world. The second came last night as the country questions its leader’s management of a pandemic that has sent more than 170,000 Americans to their graves and the economy into a tailspin.
From the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, and flanked by the US Constitution, Obama played both taskmaster and conscience, giving the audience a lesson on American democracy — its roots, how the presidency is intended to uphold it, and the challenges that put its existence at stake.
Obama said the president has “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever.”
Obama has long stuck to conventional norms and held back on criticizing his successor, saying in 2016 that he wanted to be “respectful of the office” and give the then-president-elect the opportunity to find his own way. He followed through even with almost daily smears from Trump, until last night, in a speech that seemed almost four years in the making.
Obama said he waited for Trump to show “some interest in taking the job seriously,” but the former reality TV star “never did.”
He contrasted his description of Trump’s presidency with Joe Biden’s actions as his vice president in an effort to show who is capable of leading the country, and who isn’t. That included Biden’s work overseeing the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus package, and an infrastructure investment plan credited for jump-starting the economy during the recession.
Obama went as far as to say that “this president and those in power” are counting on voter cynicism and making it “as hard as possible” to vote.His short-term solution to the country’s woes — to elect Biden — comes at a time when voters wonder if it’s safe to vote in person, and if their ballot will be properly counted due to Trump-imposed changes to the postal system. “Do not let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you’re going to get involved and vote,” Obama said.
Obama spoke just before vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, handing off the torch as the first black president to the first woman of color to accept a major party nomination to a national ticket.