Barack Obama unleashed on President Trump in his speech to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night, saying the administration would do anything to win even if it meant tearing down America’s democracy.
He made a clear, concise argument on why Trump was unqualified to serve in the Oval Office, sounding presidential as he made his case – but also painted a dark vision of the consequences of a second Trump term.
‘This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win,’ he charged in his nearly 20 minute speech, a condemnation of a president by a previous one without historical precedent.
He told Americans the only way to restore the country was to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in November.
‘We have to get busy building it up – by pouring all our effort into these 76 days, and by voting like never before – for Joe and Kamala, and candidates up and down the ticket, so that we leave no doubt about what this country we love stands for – today and for all our days to come,’ said Obama, his hair gray and demeanor serious.
He put aside post-presidential precedent to deliver an indictment of the man who succeeded him in the Oval Office, calling him lazy, dangerous, and corrupt, accusing him of abusing the military as props, of gassing peaceful protesters and of being willing to do anything for a second term.
And he tried to address Trump voters directly saying he understood why they felt government didn’t work – but decried conspiracy theories, incompetence and the deaths of 170,000, saying: ‘He hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t’ and turning the presidency into ‘a reality show for the attention he craves.’
Obama’s criticism was his most direct, harshest to date on the man who followed him into the Oval Office. Obama, on previous occasions, to the frustration of his fellow Democrats, had followed the unspoken rule that former presidents don’t question or criticize the current office holder.
That rule went to the sidelines on Wednesday night.
Obama charged Trump hasn’t grown into the job of president of the United States ‘because he can’t’ and he’s shown ‘no interest in putting in the work’ to be an effective leader.
‘I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president,’ Obama said, making a personal connection to the two candidates running for his old job.
‘I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care,’ he said.
‘Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,’ Obama said.
The former president said he understood why there was cynicism and despair in the United States under Trump’s presidency, saying he understood ‘why a Black mother might feel like it never looked out for her at all.;
He went on to mention some of the more disenfranchised groups, blocs that tend to vote Democrat when they vote.
‘I understand why a new immigrant might look around this country and wonder whether there’s still a place for him here; why a young person might look at politics right now, the circus of it all, the meanness and the lies and crazy conspiracy theories and think, what’s the point?’ he said.
But he warned that attitude was being fostered by President Trump to keep Americans from voting.
‘This president and those in power – those who benefit from keeping things the way they are – they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win,’ he argued.
WATCH: Former President Obama Warns Of Second Trump Term
Trump issued his response via Twitter – sending out messages in all caps (as crazy people often do) as Obama spoke.
He repeated a false claim that Obama “spied” on his campaign “and got caught,” without citing evidence for his claims.
‘HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!,’ Trump roared, referring to an FBI counter investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign to see if Russia was trying to influence the election.
HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2020
He also tried to minimize Obama’s full throated support of Biden earlier, although incumbent presidents often do not get involved during the primary election process.
‘WHY DID HE REFUSE TO ENDORSE SLOW JOE UNTIL IT WAS ALL OVER, AND EVEN THEN WAS VERY LATE? WHY DID HE TRY TO GET HIM NOT TO RUN?,’ Trump typed again in all caps.
WHY DID HE REFUSE TO ENDORSE SLOW JOE UNTIL IT WAS ALL OVER, AND EVEN THEN WAS VERY LATE? WHY DID HE TRY TO GET HIM NOT TO RUN?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2020
Traditionally, the nominee of the other party stays quiet during their rival’s convention week.
Trump threw that rule out the window this week with his trips to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Arizona to criticize Biden.
Trump will give an interview to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night – the night Biden accepts the Democrats’ presidential nomination – and he’ll visit Pennsylvania that day too, making a stop near Biden’s hometown of Scranton.