In a pointed speech Friday, former President Barack Obama mentioned President Trump for the first time by name since leaving office.
Perhaps most forcefully, Obama not-so-subtly criticized Trump for failing to denounce white supremacists and racists. Obama recalled Trump's response to the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, when Trump said there was blame on "both sides."
"We're supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we're sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers," said Obama. "How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?"
The former president urged Americans to vote in the upcoming midterm elections, saying, "When you vote, you've got the power to make sure white nationalists don't feel emboldened to march with their hoods off, or their hoods on, in Charlottesville in the middle of the day."
He additionally called on Republican lawmakers to stand up to Trump more clearly in such situations. He said that relying on an opaque definition of "civility" would ultimately lead to mere "vague statements of disappointment" when Trump "does something outrageous," rather than action. "That's not civility. That's abdicating your responsibilities," he said. Watch the moment below, via NBC News. Summer Meza
Former President Obama:
“How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?" pic.twitter.com/DOJnJS9zCV
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 7, 2018
Former President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned speech Friday, inching his way back onto the political scene.
Obama spoke at the University of Illinois, where he received the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government. In his remarks, he discussed the midterm elections and the "state of our democracy."
He said that while it can sound like a cliché to say the stakes are higher than ever in politics, "this moment really is different." He urged people to vote, saying the U.S. is in a "pivotal moment" and that "our democracy depends on it."
For the first time in a major speech, Obama mentioned President Trump by name. He said that fear of progress in America and "backlash" has increased as change comes around. Trump is a "symptom, not the cause" of that fear, he said. He still went on to lambaste Trump's attacks on the media, pointing out that though he himself complained about Fox News, he never threatened to shut them down, as Trump has done with various networks. He additionally said that the Justice Department should not be used as a "cudgel" to beat political enemies, slamming Trump's assertion that the DOJ should not have prosecuted two Republicans in order to help the GOP in the midterm elections.
"What happened to the Republican Party?" he asked, blasting the GOP for allowing "politics of division and resentment and paranoia." "They're undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia," he said, and "actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections." Summer Meza