Former U.S. President Barack Obama waded into the political fray on Friday, launching a blistering critique of President Donald Trump and Republicans and urging Democrats to vote in November’s elections to restore “honesty and decency and lawfulness” to government.
In a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Obama said Americans were living in “dangerous times” and accused Republicans of undermining global alliances, cozying up to Russia and exploding the federal deficit.
“In two months we have the chance to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics,” Obama said. “There is only one check on abuses of power, and that’s you and your vote.”
Both parties have encouraged their core supporters to get to the polls on Nov. 6, when Democrats need to pick up 23 seats in the House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to gain majorities in Congress and slam the brakes on Trump’s agenda.
Obama, who has frustrated some Democrats by keeping a relatively low profile since leaving office in January 2017, said Republicans seemed unwilling to safeguard democracy or offer a check on Trump’s policies or worst instincts.
“It’s not conservative, it sure isn’t normal. It’s radical. It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even if it hurts the country,” he said.
The November elections have been seen as a referendum on Trump, who has fulfilled campaign promises to cut taxes and regulations but who faces a widening special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and growing questions about his fitness for office, even by some within his administration.
Obama had so far been reluctant to publicly criticize his successor, although last week he appeared to chide Trump, without naming him, in a eulogy for the late Republican Senator John McCain.
If Democrats won control of one or both chambers in Congress in November, they would be able not just to stymie Trump’s agenda but to launch investigations into the Trump administration.
Trump told supporters in Montana on Thursday that Republicans needed to maintain control of Congress to stave off possible impeachment proceedings against him.
“If it does happen, it’s your fault, because you didn’t go out to vote. OK? You didn’t go out to vote. You didn’t go out to vote. That’s the only way it could happen,” Trump told a Montana rally.
“I’m sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep,” Trump joked while speaking at an event in North Dakota. “I found he’s very good, very good for sleeping," Trump reacted to Obama's statement, speaking to reporters in North Dakota. (Reuters)