Michelle Obama tears into Trumps record at DNC

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Former first lady Michelle Obama ripped into Donald Trump for being unfit for the presidency in a Democratic National Committee speech that accused him of “faking” his way through the job and stoking racial tensions.

Delivering the keynote speech of the event’s first night, Ms Obama sounded emotional – frustrated, anxious and firm – as she essentially pleaded with the country to reject Mr Trump and his version of the presidency. Though admitting she does not enjoy the political coliseum, Ms Obama stormed into it on Monday night and took on the president – even calling him out by name in a way her husband purposely avoided four years ago when he was unable to help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defeat him.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she said. “He is in over his head. He cannot meet the moment. … It is what it is.”

“The job is hard,” she said in the keynote speech of the event’s first night. “You simply cannot fake your way through it.”

She called Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, a decent man who “trusts science” and “listens”.

Ms Obama accused Mr Trump and other administration officials of trying to suppress Democratic votes by closing polling places and trying to hinder the United States Post Office.

“We’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night, if we have to,” she said, urging Democratic voters to request their mail-in ballot “tonight”.

As other speakers did, the former first lady described a dark and gloomy America under Trump’s term.

“But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value,” she said.

“They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the colour of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain,” Ms Obama said. “They see our leaders labelling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op.”

Ms Obama tried to paint a picture of a president and White House without a moral compass or any empathy.

“So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, ‘When others are going so low, does going high still really work?'” she said, reflecting on her 2016 DNC address message. “My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanising others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.”

“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,” Ms Obama said, also urging Democratic voters to turn out in big enough numbers that the president, as he has suggested, cannot question the election’s outcome.

To restore “any of these most basic requirements for a functioning society, we have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored. Because right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting,” she said.

‘Authoritarianism has taken root’

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr Biden’s final primary challenger, delivered a forceful takedown of Mr Trump and essentially pleaded with his progressive followers to turn out and vote for the party’s nominee on Election Day. But the crux of his remarks were highly critical of Mr Trump.

“Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country,” he said. “As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat. … The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake.”

Mr Sanders noted the party’s coming nominee has adopted many of the far left’s policy positions, calling them “mainstream”. Earlier on Monday, Mr Trump told supporters in Minnesota and Wisconsin that Mr Biden is little more than a “Trojan horse for socialism,” the kind pushed by Democratic officials like Mr Sanders and others.

Like other speakers, he accused Mr Trump of being unable and uninterested in doing what Democrats and some experts say is necessary to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

“Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” Mr Sanders said. “Trump golfs.”

Kristin Urquiza delivered one of the night’s most powerful moments when she directly blamed the president for her father’s death to Covid-19.

“I’m one of the many who has lost a loved one to Covid. My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t,” she said. “My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, said he cannot imagine four more years with Mr Trump as president. “What we do know is we can do better than what we have been seeing today,” he said, telling Republican voters that Mr Biden would not “turn far left” if elected, because he has known the former VP for 30 years and knows he would not be pushed around. A video then played of self-identifying Republican voters who say they will vote for Mr Biden.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, whose brief presidential bid fizzled, called Mr Trump the most “racist” president in American history.

‘We the people’

The Democrats kicked off their first virtual convention with a video of young Americans singing the national anthem. As they started trying to convince the country Mr Biden would make a better president than the incumbent, an average of several polls shows the former vice president leading Mr Trump in Minnesota by 7.7 percentage points nationally.

He also leads by a statistically significant margin, over 6 points, in a list of key battleground states. In other states that have been safely in the red column for several presidential cycles, like Georgia, Texas and Ohio, Mr Biden is in a dead heat with the president.

Mr Biden, his campaign managers and DNC officials included a number of videos reflecting their “We The People” theme for the evening, including musical numbers by notable acts. At times, it felt like they are cognisant the four-night event must resemble a television show without the in-arena crowds with their applause and chants – and dramatic final-night balloon drop.

Another notable moment that came after the group anthem was a question-and-answer segment with voters – two were from Pennsylvania and one from Texas. The latter is a major swing state and even Trump-friendly Fox News lists the Lone Star State as a toss up.

‘Mr President’

The future nominee himself interviewed black leaders from around the country about racial injustice and police violence.

In a somewhat awkward moment, Mr Biden, who is running for president, called NAACP President Derrick Johnson “Mr President”. That moniker typically is reserved for sitting and former American chiefs executive.

“Most cops are good,” Mr Biden told the group of black leaders, adding that bad police officers need to be weeded out of departments across the country. The line seemed tailored to counter Mr Trump’s contention that Mr Biden and all Democrats want to “defund the police”, something black activists and others pushed during protests around the country after the death of George Floyd.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn spoke from Charleston, South Carolina, saying the country is moving from behind shadows of the racism that defines part of its complicated history. “We need a president who understands both profound loss, and what it takes to bounce back,” Mr Clyburn said, vowing that, if elected, Mr Biden would prioritise hardworking Americans.

“We will need a president who sees unifying people as a requirement of the job. … Joe Biden is as good a man as he is a leader,” Mr Clyburn said. “I have said before and wish to reiterate tonight: We know Joe, but more importantly, Joe knows us.”

As the first hour of the first night headed towards a close, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared in a taped video to blast the president’s coronavirus response. He called the Trump administration “incompetent”.

Like other speakers, the New York chief executive accused Mr Trump of trying to divide the country.

“Joe Biden can restore the soul of America,” Mr Cuomo said. “And that is what America needs now more than ever.”

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