Michelle Obama warns at DNC that Trump is ‘in over his head’
Cites pandemic, flagging economy, the political unrest over systemic racism, and a lack of leadership on the world stage.
WASHINGTON — At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama told party members that “when they go low, we go high.”
After four years of President Donald Trump, she came back to give it to them straight.
“If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me they can — and they will, if we don’t make a change in this election,” Mrs. Obama told her party in a blunt and emotional appeal that capped the first night of the Democrats’ convention.
The former first lady spoke declared President Donald Trump “in over his head” and the “wrong president for our country.”
“Whenever we look to this White House 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,” she said, saying Joe Biden could be the antidote the country needs.
Mrs. Obama’s was the last and longest speech in Democrats’ experiment with a virtual convention in the coronavirus era, a spot earned through her overwhelming popularity in her party and relative scarcity in the political arena.
She used that spotlight to make a broad appeal, reaching out to Democrats but also to nonvoters and former Trump voters who may be regretting their choice.
The president “has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head,’ she said. “He cannot meet this moment.”
Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the flagging economy, the political unrest that’s broken out nationwide over systemic racism and what she described as America’s lack of leadership on the world stage, Mrs. Obama said that the nation is “underperforming not simply on matters of policy, but on matters of character.”
In contrast, Mrs. Obama said, Biden is a “profoundly decent man” and knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country.” She recounted how Biden has prevailed through the personal tragedy of losing his first wife, baby daughter and adult son and said that Biden will “channel that same grit and passion to help us heal and guide us forward.”
Republican Donald Trump succeeded President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2017 and promptly set out to undo many of Obama’s achievements on health care, the environment and foreign policy, among others. Trump also routinely criticizes Obama’s job performance.
Before the event, Trump took a dig at the former first lady’s coming speech, noting that her remarks were prerecorded and that his own speech at the Republican National Convention next week will be live.
“Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech?” he said at a rally in Wisconsin.
Mrs. Obama, who leads an effort to help register people to vote, spoke about the importance of voting in the Nov. 3 election, which will take place amid a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and infected more than 5 million in the U.S. Wearing a necklace that spelled out the word “vote,” she noted that Trump lost the popular vote but still won the election.
“We’ve all been suffering the consequences,” she said.
Her remarks came as debate rages in Washington about U.S. Postal Service changes that are delaying mail deliveries around the country. Trump, who lags Biden in some national and state polls, has denounced efforts by some states to expand voting-by-mail options because of the pandemic.
The issue was a constant theme during the Monday night convention, with multiple speakers expressing concerns over the state of the Postal Service and encouraging viewers to vote early.
Valerie Jarrett, a longtime adviser to both Barack and Michelle Obama, said the former first lady felt compelled to speak up because “this election is very personal for her.”
“She knows the lengths that people are going through, around our country, to suppress the vote, and it’s why she has poured so much of her energy into getting folks registered and educated about voting,” Jarrett said.
In keeping with the virtual nature of the convention, Mrs. Obama’s remarks were recorded before Biden’s announcement last Tuesday that he had chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Mrs. Obama remains hugely popular with the Democratic base, and among Black women in particular, as well as with some of those outside the party.
Her speech was the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first introduced herself to the nation during her husband’s groundbreaking campaign in 2008. She spoke again in 2012 to urge voters to give him a second term.
Michelle Obama returned to the convention stage in 2016, backing former first lady Hillary Clinton over Trump, who had spent years pushing the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and was ineligible for the presidency.
She spoke of the code her family lives by: “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”