New York: Former US First Lady Michelle Obama, in an 18-minute speech on Day One of the virtual Democratic convention, tore into Donald Trump’s presidency painting a picture of a man who simply does not understand what she described as the “immense weight and awesome power of the presidency”.
“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job but he is clearly…over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” Obama said, revealing a string of what she called “cold, hard truths”.
Obama was seeking to show the sharp differences between Trump and former vice president Joe Biden, with less than 80 days to go before the November election. She chose to underline a recurring theme of Biden’s empathy. Tragedy has followed Biden from the early 70s till after he became vice president. Biden lost his first wife and baby daughter after he was elected to the US Senate in 1972, he lost his son Beau from brain cancer in 2015.
“Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time, so freely to grieving parents,” Obama said.
Trump knocked Obama and the video format of the Democratic convention from a rally in Wisconsin: “Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech?”
Those who did listen said they loved it.
“There was an urgency in her address, there was an intimacy to it. She gave people clear instructions. She asked people to vote like their life depends on it. Pretty strong!” is how former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe assessed the Michelle Obama speech.
Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, said Michelle Obama set the ball rolling for what will be the single biggest takeaway from this Democratic convention — how the party defines Joe Biden for American voters.
The Biden campaign is hoping for the famed Obama bump from this high profile endorsement.
Nearly four years after leaving the White House, Michelle Obama remains hugely popular with the Democratic base, and among Black women in particular.
Dressed in a dark chocolate coloured silk dress, Obama roasted Trump in her keynote speech, describing him as someone who “cannot meet the moment” amid a global pandemic.
Obama slammed Trump for downplaying the threat from the coronavirus which has killed more than 170,000 Americans and left the economy in “shambles”.
“I am one of the handful of people living today who have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency,” Obama said, speaking of her personal experience in the White House from 2008 to 2016.
“The job is hard. It requires clear headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues of devotion to facts and history, a moral compass and an ability to listen and an abiding belief that each of the 300 million lives in this country has meaning and worth,” Obama said.
Mincing no words, Obama did take Trump’s name, reluctantly, to land her most powerful punches.
She gave Trump “epic shade”, according to Obama obsessors delivering post-speech punditry on television.
“As I’ve said before, being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are too, and four years ago, too many people chose to believe that their votes didn’t matter,” Obama said, taking the audience back to the time when Trump became president, defeating Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote.
Obama skewered the current occupant of the White House saying that when Americans look to this president for “some leadership, or consolation, or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division and a total and utter lack of empathy.”
Obama’s remarks were recorded before Biden’s announcement choosing California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. Her speech made no mention of Harris although her social media feeds have featured lengthy posts on Harris, an Indian and Black American, after she joined the Democratic ticket.
Monday’s speech was the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first took this stage during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.