PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama on Wednesday touted his Administration’s accomplishments, called on Americans to reject the rhetoric of the right and to believe in Hillary Clinton.
Obama said since he was first elected, the country has fought back from a brutal recession, brought more troops home and killed Osama bin Laden, shut down Iran’s nuclear program and re-engaged Cuba.
“By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started,” Obama said on the penultimate night of the Democratic National Convention.
It was a speech that marked the 12th anniversary of his rousing keynote address at the 2004 DNC in Boston, his debut to a national audience that pre-told his quick rise in national politics.
On Wednesday, Obama set about to help pick his successor. Hillary Clinton, Obama said, has all the tools.
“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.”
That wasn’t the same message he had eight years ago, when he and Clinton were locked in a fierce battle for the Democratic nomination.
“We battled for a year and a half,” Obama said. “Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary’s tough. I was worn out. Eight years ago, she’s was doing everything I was doing, but backwards and in heels. Every time I thought I might have that race won, Hillary just came back stronger.”
Nothing prepares a person to sit at the desk in the Oval Office, Obama said. You have to learn it.
“But Hillary’s been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions,” he said. “She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes … even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”
Obama took aim at Donald Trump, too, saying the Republican nominee “is not really a ‘plans’ guy.” The businessman, the president said, is selling fear to attract votes.
“That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose. Because he’s selling the American people short,” Obama said. “We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled. Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union.”
With Clinton in the White House, Obama said, America will defeat ISIS without resorting to torture or abandoning its allies. She understands the threats facing the country, understands its needs and hopes. It’s a sentiment that was missing last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward,” he said. “But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative.”
It was a pessimistic convention filled with insular thinking with no solutions, “just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate,” Obama said.
Clinton is not perfect, Obama said. No one is. Her critics on the right and the left have “caricatured” her and “accused (her) of everything you can imagine — and some things you can’t.”
It’s part of life of being under a microscope for 40 years.
“Hillary Clinton,” Obama said, “is that woman in the arena.”