Obama Talks Up Hillary at DNC, Hillary Drops In to Thank Him
He still knows how to work a crowd, Barack Obama, especially one at a convention.
Seeing him stand at the podium on the royal blue stage at the Democratic National Convention inside the Wells Fargo Center late Wednesday night, it was impossible not to think back to 2004, when he wowed DNC attendees in Boston as a young senator from Illinois, and back to 2008, when an inspiring speech at the DNC in Denver — delivered as the Democratic presidential nominee — catapulted him to victory that November.
Remember that fall night, when people took to the streets in Philadelphia and around the country to giddily celebrate Obama’s historic election? The Great Recession posed a seemingly insurmountable threat to the nation’s future, yet people allowed themselves to get lost in the moment, in the idea that all of Obama’s talk about Hope and Change and Yes We Can was more than just good campaign slogans.
And those good vibes fueled real change, he argued in Philadelphia, running through the accomplishments achieved during his two terms: Unemployment is at an eight-year low, the economy has gained 15 million jobs, universal healthcare is a reality, Osama bin Laden is dead, and gay marriage is legal across the country.
As victory laps go, it was pretty solid, if the waves of adoring applause and occasional chants of “Four more years!” were any indication. But Obama wasn’t just there to take a bow; he had to make the case that the same voters who were once wooed by his lofty oratorial skills — some of whom are still deeply angry that Bernie Sanders isn’t the Democratic nominee — need to rally around Hillary Clinton, and not let their mixed feelings about her lead to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump actually getting his hands on the keys to the White House.
“I think it’s fair to say, this is not your typical election,” Obama said to knowing laughter. It is not, he said, the usual push-pull between Democrats and Republicans, the left and the right. It’s a “fundamental choice about who we are as a people.”
He acknowledged that Clinton has plenty of detractors, even within the Democratic party. “She’s been accused of everything you can imagine, and some things you cannot.” But as a former senator, First Lady and Secretary of State, Obama argued, she has a plethora of experience fighting for working-class people, working with leaders of other nations, and confronting crises with global implications.
The president recalled the bruising primary fight he and Clinton waged back in 2008. Every time he thought he had the nomination wrapped up, she kept on fighting back. He eventually surprised her by asking her to serve as Secretary of State; she surprised him by accepting.
“No matter how daunting the odds, no matter much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits,” Obama said. “That is the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill [Clinton], nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”
Trump, meanwhile, “is not really a plans guy,” Obama said. “He’s not really a facts guy, either.” Immigration and crime rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades, he said. Trump is claiming that both are spiraling out of control, painting a picture of a county that’s about to devolve into a grim dystopia that only he can save, ratcheting up the fear and anger in a bid to win voters. It’s night-and-day from hope and change, as different as shaking someone’s hand or getting punched in the face.
“We don’t look to be ruled,” Obama declared.
The arena was lost in excitement by the time his speech wrapped up. And then Hillary Clinton walked out in a blue suit, and they stood together at the center of it all, former rivals who now clasped their hands together in a show of unity in the face of the unnerving threat posed by Donald Trump. Strange days indeed.
Earlier in the evening, the Rocky theme song greeted Vice President Joe Biden as he took the stage to chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!” There was a time, not all that long ago, when it seemed likely that Biden was going to jump into the presidential race, that he’d be the one accepting the nomination on Thursday night in Philly. (Biden hasn’t shied away from expressing his regret over deciding not to run.)
Instead, he was here on Wednesday, reminding everyone “what it’ll mean for our daughters and granddaughters when Hillary Clinton walks into the Oval Office as the president of the United States of America.” He talked up some of Clinton’s attributes, but seemed more effective at pointing out Trump’s shortcomings.
“He has no clue about what makes America great. Actually, he has no clue, period,” Biden said. (Cue “Not A Clue!” chants.)
No major party nominee in the history of the country has been less prepared for the presidency, Biden said. “We can’t elect a man who exploits our fears of ISIS and other terrorists, who has no plan whatsoever to make us safe, a man who embraces the tactics of our enemies: torture, religious intolerance. You all know, other Republicans know, that is not who we are.”
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