Embracing Clinton, Obama says she’ll ‘finish the job’
Gregory Korte | USA TODAY11 minutes ago
PHILADELPHIA — President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton as the woman to finish the job he started eight years ago, calling on Americans to “reject cynicism” and elect Clinton to “show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.”
Embracing his former rival to thunderous applause from the convention hall, Obama thus passed the Democratic party’s baton to the first woman ever nominated for president by a major American political party.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton on stage during the 2016 Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center.
“I’m here to tell you that yes, we still have more work to do,” Obama told delegates at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday, implicitly arguing for a third term for his policies by citing unfinished work on the economy, public safety and civil rights. “My time in this office hasn’t fixed everything; as much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do.”
Of that unfinished work, nothing is more important than national security. And there, he argued that no candidate was more prepared than his former secretary of state and first lady to President Bill Clinton. “No one. Not me, not Bill, not nobody,” he said.
“I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She’ll finish the job – and she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit to be the next commander in chief,” Obama said.
Touting Clinton’s experience and judgment, Obama’s speech was a direct rebuttal to one Trump’s most incisive attacks at last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland. Trump said Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was marked by “death, destruction and weakness.”
“You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. Until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war,” Obama said. “But Hillary’s been in the room. She’s been part of those decisions.”
Acknowledging that the two were once bitter rivals for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Obama said he came to admire Clinton’s tenacity. “No matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”
Obama’s enthusiastic endorsement anchored a Wednesday night lineup that also featured Vice President Biden and his would-be successor, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Echoing a theme throughout the convention, they all spoke of the Clinton they know personally — as opposed to the cartoon version she’s portrayed as by her Republican critics.
“She’s been caricatured by the right and by some folks on the left; accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you can’t,” Obama said. “But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years. She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do.”
“Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect,” Obama said. “That’s 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 more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”
“Everybody knows she’s smart. Everybody knows she’s tough,” Biden said. “But I know what she’s passionate about. I know Hillary.”
After walking out on the Philadelphia stage to the theme from the movie Rocky, Biden urged the crowd not to boo or cheer while he delivered an indictment of Donald Trump. He said the GOP nominee’s “cynicism is unbounded” and his commitment to the middle class was “malarkey.” The crowd cheered anyway. When Biden said the billionaire Trump didn’t have a clue about the middle class, the crowd chanted, “Not a clue!”
Obama’s prime-time speech in Philadelphia capped a 12-year career in national politics as he attempts to pass the baton to the former first lady and senator from New York. Twelve years ago to the day, a then-unknown state senator from Illinois took to the convention stage in Boston to declare a “politics of hope,” laying the groundwork for his own 2008 election to the White House.
“I was so young that first time in Boston, maybe a little nervous addressing such a big crowd,” he said. “But I was filled with faith — faith in America,the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story – that made all of our stories – possible.”
Obama continued that hopeful tone as he returns to the Democratic National Convention podium for the fourth time, but infused it with the themes of some of his most important speeches of his career. He spoke of building “a more perfect union” and the “audacity of hope,” and urged on the crowd as it chanted “Yes, we can!”
“The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous,” he said.
He even quoted Ronald Reagan, calling America “a shining city on a hill,” and contrasted it with Trump’s pessimism.
But Obama also acknowledged that Americans have “real anxieties” about jobs and security. “We get frustrated with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions; are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice,” he said. “There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten.”
Trump is not the answer to those anxieties, Obama said. “He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.”
When the crowd booed, he repeated a line that’s become a staple of his stump speeches. “Don’t boo. Vote,” he said.