Former President Obama jumped into the political fray on Friday, lashing out at Donald Trump by name in what appears to be his first crack at energizing Democrats for midterms.
Trump says he fell asleep.
"I'm sorry. I watched it, but I fell asleep. I found he's very good — very good for sleeping," the President said during a Fargo, ND fundraiser.
While giving an acceptance speech for the Paul H. Douglas award for Ethics in Government at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Obama said that President Trump is simply capitalizing on discontent whipped up over many years, while asking "What happened to the Republican Party?" while adding that Americans have "moments" when people who are "genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change" have pushed back against progressive American ideals.
"You happen to be coming of age during one of those moments," Obama said. "It did not start with Donald Trump, he is a symptom, not the cause. He is just capitalizing on resentment that politicians have fanning for years. A fear, an anger that is rooted in our past but is also borne in our enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes."
Perhaps fanning a few flames himself, Obama then said "we sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers," asking "How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?"
"When you vote, you’ve got the power to make sure white nationalists don’t feel emboldened to march with their hoods on or hoods off in Charlottesville," Obama said.
This hasn't sat well with conservatives:
This is a really dumb thing to say when @BarackObama’s Administration let an actual Nazi prison guard live in New York during both of his terms as President and @realDonaldTrump forcibly kicked that actual Nazi out of the country to face Justice this year. https://t.co/x3jSIiVIgW
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) September 7, 2018
Obama also pushed back against the controversial New York Times op-ed allegedly written by an anonymous White House official claiming to be part of an internal "resistance" within the administration.
And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren't following the president's orders—that is not a check. I'm being serious here. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren't elected. They are not accountable. They are not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that is coming out of this White House and then saying don't worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent. That's not how things are supposed to work! This is not normal. These are extraordinary times, and they are dangerous times.
Worth noting, though, that the Obama Justice Department secretly designated a Fox News journalist, James Rosen, as a criminal co-conspirator. https://t.co/yurhTnwp9a
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) September 7, 2018
The former President then made his midterm pitch, telling the audience "In two months, we have the chance—not the certainty, but the chance—to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics. Because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and abuses of power, and that's you. You and your vote."
You spied on their reporters, seized phone records and personal emails and declared James Rosen an enemy of the state. Holder himself signed the secret search warrant application. https://t.co/UURshaCAaV
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) September 7, 2018
Obama then took credit for the economic progress made under the Trump administration, saying "let's just remember when this recovery started. I mean, I'm glad it's continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that's been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers, and suddenly Republicans are saying ‘it's a miracle!’ I have to kind of remind them—actually those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016. Anyway, I digress."
One might argue that the recovery started when Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke held a gun to Congress's head in September of 2008, during the Bush administration, when they described how the US economy would implode if they didn't urgently apply taxpayer dollars to fix decisions facilitated in part by Bill Clinton's repeal of Glass Steagall. But we digress...
Trump responded to Obama's economic diss, telling the Fargo crowd "He was trying to take credit for this incredible thing that's happening to our country," adding that Obama presided over the "weakest recovery in the history of our country."
Obama also hit Trump on tax cuts for wealthy Americans, claiming: "With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they’ve provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me, who I promise don’t need it, and don’t even pretend to pay for them," adding "It’s supposed to be the party supposedly of fiscal conservatism... Suddenly deficits do not matter."