President Barack Obama on Wednesday night told Americans they face a stark option in November an unusual election that has raised “fundamental” topics “about who we are as a people, ” and pitted one of the most qualified candidates in history, Hillary Clinton, against an untrustworthy con man, Donald Trump.
In a Democratic National Convention speech that was at turns emotional and scalding and ended with Clinton appearing by his side, Obama began with a recitation of his accomplishments in office reduce unemployment and saving the automobile industry, passing health care reform, a nuclear agreement with Iran and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
He recognise problems that the country still faces people struggling with bills, an epidemic of gun violence but he also professed his strong belief in the country’s ability to fix its problems, even if “change is never easy, and never quick.”
“The America I know is full of courage and optimism and ingenuity, ” Obama said, contrasting this vision with the dark, pessimistic message that came from the Republican convention in Cleveland last week.
“What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world, ” Obama said. “There were no serious solutions to pressing problems only the fanning of resentment and blamed and rage and hate.”
After laying out those two visions, Obama induced his example for Clinton, reminding people not only of her experience and expertise but also of her record of championing groups such as children and veterans.
Obama made a particularly big deal about Clinton’s commitment to public service, in an apparent attempt to turn one of her biggest political liabilities her experience in politics into an asset. “She knows she’s constructed mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do. That’s what happens when we try.”
Obama likened Clinton’s grit and determination to Theodore Roosevelt’s. “Hillary Clinton is that female in the arena. She’s been there for us even if we haven’t always noticed.”
And then it was time to talk about Trump. Previous speakers including Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine had already worked up the crowd. Obama picked up where they left off at first, by adopting the same mocking tone he’d being implemented in 2011 at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
“He’s not really a plans guy, ” Obama said of the real estate mogul turned Republican nominee. “Not actually a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a road of lawsuits and unpaid workers and people feeling like they get cheated.”
But Obama promptly turned serious, mentioning Trump’s record in business as proof that he would not protect the economic interests of everyday Americans. “Does anyone truly believe, ” Obama said, “that a guy who’s expended his 70 years on this globe demonstrating no regard for working man is suddenly going to be your champ? Your voice? ”
He also questioned Trump’s ability to protect Americans from foreign threats: “He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, and tells the NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection. Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We gratified our commitments.”
At one point, Obama invoked an iconic figure from Republican Party history to press his suit. “Ronald Reagan, ” Obama explained, “called America’ a shining city on a hill.’ Donald Trump calls it’ a divided crime scene’ that only he can fix . … He’s only offering slogans, and he’s offering anxiety. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough elections to win this election.”
“That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose, ” Obama continued. “Because he’s selling the American people short. We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled.”
But the strongest part of his speech came at the end when, after painting Trump as somebody who doesn’t believe in America, Obama reasserted his own belief that democracy can work and that, given the chance, they will construct the right choices for the country.
“That’s America, ” Obama said. “Those bonds of affection; that common credo. We don’t dread the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.”
Obama’s speech brought the partisan crowd to its feet and the roars grew louder when Clinton attained her dramatic, if predictable, entrance onstage to join him. The two exchanged terms, espoused and then stood on the stage soaked in the applause as the convention’s third night depicted to a close.
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