In a bold bid to persuade Americans to elect the successor of his choice, President Barack Obama told delegates Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention that “there has never been a man or a woman more qualified” than Hillary Clinton to serve as president.
On a night when Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine accepted the vice presidential nomination and introduced himself to the country, Democrats paraded to the dais their mightiest leaders, tasked with assuring Americans that the presidency and the nation will be safe and well in Clinton’s hands.
Greeted with thunderous cheers as he walked on stage just before 11 p.m., Obama told the delegates and a national TV audience “nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office.”
“You can read about it, you can study it, but 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.”
Moments after Obama finished, Hillary Clinton walked on the stage, pointed in his direction and gave him a big hug. Then they waved to the thousands of enthusiastic delegates.
Preceded by Kaine and Vice President Joe Biden on the third night of the Democratic convention, Obama made a dramatic appeal for voters to rally behind Clinton, who served as secretary of state in his first administration and who ran against Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
“Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect,” Obama said of his onetime rival. “And no matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.
“That’s the Hillary I know,” Obama said. “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 — not me, not Bill (Clinton), nobody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”
Obama, Biden, and Kaine proffered a counter narrative to what they perceived as a pessimistic view that prevailed at Trump’s Republican convention, which Sen. Sherrod Brown described to Ohio delegates Wednesday as “one speaker after another who was madder than the last speaker.”
Instead, the Democrats attempted to recast the nation as hopeful and prospering, even as its citizens struggle with everyday life.
With a booming delivery, Biden electrified the house with an impassioned defense of America, admonishing voters not to elect Trump because “no major nominee in the history of the nation has ever known less.”
Saying “it’s never a good bet to bet against America” because “we do not scare easily,” Biden said he was more optimistic now about the nation’s future “than when I was elected as a 29-year-old kid to the United States Senate.”
As the delegates roared, Biden finished with a flourish: “We are Americans, second to none, and we own the finish line.”
With biting sarcasm, Kaine launched a stinging rebuke of Trump’s trustworthiness, noting that after making big promises he always says, “Believe me.”
“So here’s the question,” Kaine said. “Do you really believe him? Donald Trump’s whole career says you better not.”
“Folks you cannot believe one word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” Kaine said as the crowd urged him on. “Our nation — it is just too great to put it in the hands of a slick-talking, empty promising, self-promoting, one-man wrecking crew.”
“Don’t take it from me,” said Kaine as he brought up Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who Kaine said “had the honor of hosting the Republican convention in Cleveland but he wouldn’t even attend it because he thinks Trump is such a moral disaster.”
In addition, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged the country to unite around Clinton. Declaring that he is “a New Yorker,” Bloomberg said he knows “a con when I see one,” a biting reference to Trump.
Obama is trying to pull off what throughout the past century has been one of the most difficult feats in American politics: hand off the office of the presidency to a chosen successor.
He directly addressed Clinton’s glaring weakness — the fact many Americans do not trust her. Obama said, “She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do.”
“That’s what happens when we try,” Obama said. “That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described — not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone ‘who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs…[but] who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.’ ’’
Obama appears to have embraced his role as Clinton surrogate with gusto, in part because a Clinton victory will validate what he sees as the successes of his two terms. And Obama has made no secret of his disdain for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose major theme is that America is in a serious decline that only he can reverse.
“The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity,” Obama said. “The America I know is decent and generous.”
“Sure, we have real anxieties — about paying the bills, protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent,” Obama said. “We get frustrated with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions, are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice.”
But Obama said as he has crisscrossed the United States during his presidency, he has seen “more than anything, is what is right with America.”
“I see people working hard and starting businesses, people teaching kids and serving our country,” Obama said. “I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, unconstrained by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be.”
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