Former President Barack Obama adds to Donald Trump’s turbulent week, in a speech warning of the “threat to our democracy” and the “politics of fear and resentment”.
Obama and former President George W. Bush have implicitly criticized Trump before, over the division and erosion of democracy caused by their successor’s approach and behavior. They brought out some of the themes in their eulogies for Senator John McCain — whom Trump insulted regularly — last weekend. But Obama’s speech on Friday at the University of Illinois went even farther, calling out Trump by name for the first time.
Obama framed November’s mid-term elections as the “most important in his lifetime”, with the stakes “even higher” and the consequences “more dire” than in the past. He spoke of Trump’s affinity for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, his apparent support for white supremacists, and his polarizing of the US:
I don’t mean to pretend I’m channeling Abraham Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I think, when he helped form the Republican Party. It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical. It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country.
Obama noted that Trump is feeding upon tensions that already existed in the US political system but said he has “capitalized on resentment” and asked: “How hard can that be, saying Nazis are bad?”
Trump tried to feign disinterest in the speech, telling supporters North Dakota, “I’m sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep. I found he’s very good, very good for sleeping.”
But at a later stop in South Dakota, he said of Obama’s re-emergence, “Now if that doesn’t get you out to vote for the midterms, nothing will.” And his Twitter feed tipped off his ongoing attention, as he retweeted swipes at Obama by a digital marketer, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, and Trump’s son Eric: “Watching @BarackObama take credit for @realDonaldTrump successes is disgraceful.”
Trump ally Senator Lindsay Graham, who has buried his previous concerns about the President even as Trump derided Graham’s friend McCain, chimed in:
In fact, the best explanation of President Trump’s victory are the “results” of the Obama Presidency!
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 7, 2018
Meanwhile, Trump fumed over this week’s revelations from inside his Administration, claiming disfunction and a failure of leadership through incompetence, instability, and “amorality”. Having threatened a revision of libel laws over Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book fear, he railed against the “senior Administration official” who wrote in The New York Times of a “Quiet Resistance” of dozens of colleagues to contain and even block Trump’s actions.
Trump, who has already ordered staff to find out who spoke with Woodward, said the Justice Department should find the unnamed “Quiet Resistance” official, portraying him/her as a threat to national security: “We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now.”
Asked on Air Force One if he trusts his White House staffers, Trump said, “I do, but what I do now is I look around the room. I say, ‘Hey, if I don’t know somebody…’.”
Obama spoke of the “Quiet Resistance” development:
The claim that everything will turn out O.K. because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, this is not a check [on Trump].
They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90% of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and then saying, “Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10%.”
Obama criticized Trump policies on climate change, taxes, health care, and regulations. Then he returned to Trump’s effect on American political culture, including pressure on US agencies amid his concerns about the Trump-Russia investigation and indictments of pro-Trump Congressmen:
It should not be Democratic or Republican. It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the Attorney General or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents. Or to explicitly call on the attorney general to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up. I’m not making that up. That’s not hypothetical.
Trump: I’m Ready to Shut Down Government
Donald Trump says he is ready to shut down the Federal Government by the end of September if he doesn’t get funding for his Wall with Mexico.
Trump told the press pool accompanying him to North and South Dakota on Friday that he thinks the step will be a vote-winner two months before Congressional elections: “I would do it because I think it’s a great political issue.”
Trump also cited the backing of conservative polemicists Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin.
Trump has threatened to close the Government since he took office, tweeting in May 2017, “Our country needs a ‘good shutdown’.” In January, the Administration and GOP allies in Congress, trying to force a capitulation on the estimated $25 billion for The Wall and other anti-immigration measures, shut down operations for almost three days.
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to deter Trump this week with props and flattery.
Ryan showed glossy photos of a wall under construction along the US-Mexico border. McConnell brought an article from the Washington Examiner that described Trump as brilliant in handling the current budget process, with the GOP unified and breaking through years of dysfunction.
The two leaders asked Trump to put off a fight over The Wall until after November’s elections, promising then to try and obtain the outcome he wants.
Trump wants $5 billion for 2019, which few lawmakers believe is obtainable. Trump added confusion on Friday by saying he could try to redirect the funds from the Pentagon’s budget, a proposal blocked before by the military.