Michelle Obama has eviscerated Donald Trump during her keynote speech at the opening night of the virtual Democratic convention, accusing him of being the “wrong president for our country” and “clearly in over his head” at a critical moment for the country.
In her most political speech and her most pointed criticism of Trump to date, the former first lady said: “Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country.”
“He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
Michelle Obama specifically referenced her words at the 2016 convention, in which she told Democrats: “When they go low, we go high.” Obama said tonight, “Going high is the only thing that works.”
She then added: “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top.”
Nearly four years after leaving the White House, Michelle 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 on the convention’s opening night will be tantamount to the endorsement of Biden that some supporters had hoped she would make during the early primaries, when his candidacy was struggling.
Michelle Obama sharply contrasted Joe Biden’s character and record with Trump’s, calling the former vice-president, who served under her husband president Barack Obama, a “profoundly decent man” who will “tell the truth and trust science”.
“He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country,” the former first lady said. “He will make smart plans and manage a good team, and he will govern as someone who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.”
Trump succeeded Barack Obama 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.
Biden’s sense of empathy was also a key focus of Michelle Obama’s speech. Speaking of the national reckoning on racism sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May, she said: “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”.
Tragedy has followed Biden, from the deaths of his first wife and baby daughter after he was elected to the Senate in 1972, to the death of his son Beau from brain cancer in 2015.
“His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward,” she said of Biden.
Michelle Obama, who leads an effort to help register people to vote, also spoke about the importance of voting in the 3 November election, which will take place amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and infected more than 5 million in the US.
Her remarks came as Democrats in Washington have also railed against recent cuts to the US Postal Service, which is headed by a Trump ally and Republican donor. The changes are delaying mail deliveries around the country, raising concerns about whether mail-in ballots will be sent out and returned on time ahead of the election.
Trump, who lags Biden in some national and state polls, has denounced efforts by some states to expand voting-by-mail options and spread misinformation to undermine the practice, which is seeing huge demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In keeping with the virtual nature of the convention because of the coronavirus, Michelle Obama’s remarks were recorded before Biden’s announcement last Tuesday that he had chosen California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.
But the former first lady wrote lengthy posts on her Facebook and Instagram accounts praising Harris, a Black woman born to Jamaican and Indian parents, after she joined the Democratic ticket.
Monday’s speech was the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first introduced herself to the nation during her husband’s groundbreaking campaign. 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 US and was ineligible for the presidency.