PHILADELPHIA, July 28 (UPI) — President Barack Obama delivered a trademark soaring address at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, challenging the Democratic Party he’s led for eight years to lift up Hillary Clinton, who he said will carry his legacy forward.
At the same time, he painted the election to succeed him “a fundamental choice about who we are as a people.”
He praised Clinton: “I can say with confidence there has never been a man or woman, not me or Bill [Clinton], who is more qualified to serve as president of the United States of America.”
He criticized Trump, about whose convention he said: “There were no serious solutions of pressing problems. Just the fanning of resentment and blame and anger and hate.”
At the end of Obama’s roughly 45-minute speech that went until nearly 11:45 p.m. EDT, almost entirely after the 10 p.m. prime time hour, Obama was greeted by Clinton on stage. The two shared a long embrace and waved to supporters for several minutes.
At points in his speech, Obama also burnished his own legacy as the 44th president: the economic recovery after the 2008 recession at its peak when he entered office; a signature healthcare reform that extended coverage to 20 million people; ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden; winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians; the Paris climate accord to stop global warming.
He praised Clinton as a battle-tested politician who has taken on big fights and is prepared to do so again, this time with the weight of the presidency behind her.
“Eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination. We battled for a year and a half. Let me tell you it was tough because Hillary was tough. I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing but just like Ginger Rodgers, it was backwards in heels,” Obama said.
Likening her to the kind of leader once praised by Teddy Roosevelt for her willingness to enter the arena to fight for her beliefs, Obama challenged those on the left who have painted her as too moderate and lacking core liberal principles. He said her opponents should follow her example and fight for their own beliefs.
“Hillary’s got her share of critics. She has been caricatured by the right and some on the left. She has been accused of everything you can imagine and some things you cannot. Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena. You’ve got to get in the arena with her because democracy isn’t a spectator sport,” Obama said.
While he praised Clinton for her readiness to be commander-in-chief, he questioned Trump’s comments about abandoning allies who don’t pay enough for the cost of mutual defense.
“America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments. We bear our burdens,” Obama said.
More generally, he criticized Trump’s approach to the campaign, saying Trump paints himself as the lone antidote to a poisoned America.
“America is already great. America is already strong. I promise you our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump,” Obama said. “Ronald Reagan called America a shining city on a hill. Donald Trump calls it a divided crime scene only he can fix.”
Obama said Trump’s presidential campaign boils down to fear-mongering.
“He’s offering slogans and he’s offering fear. He’s betting if he scares enough people he might get just enough votes to win this election. That’s another bet Donald Trump is going to lose,” Obama said.