Former President Barack Obama delivered an often-incredulous and blistering account of his successor’s first four years in office on Wednesday in Philadelphia, making his most direct attacks on President Donald Trump to date both on substance and on a personal level.
The event is Obama’s first stump speech for his former vice president, a welcome sight to Democrats who see the former president as Joe Biden’s most potent character witness and a key factor in encouraging Black men, Latinos and younger voters to turn out and vote.
Obama’s speech represented his most direct attacks on Trump to date, with the former Democratic leader leveling both substantive critiques — like questioning Trump’s tax policy and handling of the coronavirus pandemic — and personal barbs, jabbing at shrinking ratings for the President’s speeches and town halls. The former President wasted no time lacing into Trump, opening the remarks by mocking him for telling an audience in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night that he wouldn’t have visited the area if not for the coronavirus hurting his political fortunes.
The remarks drilled down on years of Democratic concerns about the President, with Obama arguing Trump’s presidency has not only changed the way other countries view the United States but remade the way Americans feel about politics.
“I never thought Donald Trump would embrace my vision or continue my polices, but I did hope for the sake of the country, that he might show some interest in taking the job seriously,” Obama said. “But it hasn’t happened. He hasn’t showed any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends.”
The former President directly attacked Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, the issue that is dominating the 2020 campaign.
He noted that Trump recently said that there is “not much” he would change about the US response to the pandemic that has killed over 220,000 people in the United States.
“Really?” Obama asked. “Not much? Nothing you can think of that could have helped some people keep their loved ones alive?”
As Obama spoke at the drive-in rally, standing against the backdrop of Lincoln Financial Field, people sounded air horns and car horns in approval throughout his speech. People stood at a distance, waving flags and banners against the setting sun.
“This is not a reality show — this is reality,” Obama added, taking particular aim at Trump on the coronavirus crisis. “Four years ago, you’d be tailgating here instead of watching a speech from your car.”
Obama’s remarks will undoubtedly anger Trump, who has continued to attack his predecessor even after almost four years removed from his last day in office.
After Obama suggested Trump uses the presidency to boost his own profile, he added, “Even then, his TV ratings are down. So you know that upsets him.”
And when he noted that Trump inherited a booming economy from him, Obama added, but “just like everything else he inherited, he messed it up.”