WASHINGTON • Former first lady Michelle Obama launched a scathing attack on President Donald Trump on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, calling him the “wrong president” for the country and urging Americans to elect Mr Joe Biden in November to end the chaos created by Mr Trump’s presidency.
While acknowledging she did not care much for politics, Mrs Obama said on Monday that Mr Biden’s steady and empathetic approach to problems was the answer and urged voters to stand in line or do whatever it takes to ensure they can beat Mr Trump.
Mrs Obama, whose husband Barack Obama was president when Mr Biden was vice-president from 2009 to 2017, capped a long parade of speakers, including some of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans, who made the case for Mr Biden at the start of his four-day nominating convention.
“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,” Mrs Obama said, adding that Mr Trump was “in over his head” as president.
“So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it,” she said.
Former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and prominent Republican John Kasich said Mr Biden’s steady approach to problems was needed to confront the coronavirus pandemic, economic woes and racial injustice.
Mr Sanders, a US senator who was Mr Biden’s top primary rival, said: “Joe Biden will end the hate and division Trump has created. He will stop the demonisation of immigrants, the coddling of white nationalists, the racist dog whistling, the religious bigotry and the ugly attacks on women.”
Mr Trump responded yesterday morning, bashing Mr Obama’s two terms in office in a series of tweets with unfounded allegations of “corruption”, “treason” and “spying” on his campaign.
“Somebody please explain to @MichelleObama that Donald J. Trump would not be here, in the beautiful White House, if it weren’t for the job done by your husband, Barack Obama,” Mr Trump wrote.
“Biden was merely an afterthought, a good reason for that very late & unenthusiastic endorsement.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced Mr Biden’s Democrats to overhaul the convention, largely eliminating the in-person gathering planned for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and turning it into two-hour, prime-time packages of virtual speeches and events from around the country.
The convention featured discussions with voters who described their struggles confronting the virus crisis and coping with the slumping economy and healthcare.
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.
FORMER FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA
Ms Kristin Urquiza, who lost her father to Covid-19, blamed Mr Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic for his death.
“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,” she said. “When I cast my vote for Joe Biden, I will do it for my dad.”
The convention opened amid widespread worries about the safety of voting in November because of the pandemic. Democrats have pushed mail-in ballots as a safe alternative, but fear it could be hindered by cost cuts at the Postal Service that, under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor, have led to delays in mail service.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr Biden in the 2020 primary, said: “The President may hate the Post Office, but he’s still going to have to send them a change of address card come January.”
The inclusion of Republican speakers angered some Democrats who voiced concern that it would take time away from progressive speakers like US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But Mr Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and Mr Biden’s campaign co-chairman, pushed back against that idea, telling reporters earlier in the day: “Remember tonight’s theme is ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Democrats.'”
Mr Biden, 77, led Mr Trump, 74, in national opinion polls heading into the back-to-back convention weeks for the two political parties.