Campaign Obama Reemerges As Former President Delivers Fiery Rebuke Of Trump

Introductory session by President Barack Obama during the Napoleons 2018 at Maison de la Radio on December 2, 2017 in Paris, France. "Les Napoleons" is a professional network of more than 3000 industry and communications players.
September 7, 2018 12:44 p.m.

In an unusual move, President Barack Obama shrugged off his reluctance to step back into the political fray Friday to pillory Trump, congressional Republicans and the MAGA philosophy as a whole.

Since Trump took office, Obama has largely held back, critiquing the Trump administration only in generalities in an attempt to respect the transition of presidential power.

But in his Friday comments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the kickoff to his midterm campaign tour, Obama took a new tack, delivering a fiery speech reminiscent of the energetic oratory he used to deliver while campaigning himself.

The former President opened up with a more traditional historical digression about the progress and missteps of American history, but it didn’t take him long to name-drop Trump — something Obama has mostly avoided since he left office — saying that Trump is a “symptom, not the cause” of the hatred and anger currently gripping parts of the country.

“Each time we get close to those ideals, somebody somewhere pushes back. The status quo pushes back,” Obama said. “Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged, who want to keep us divided, keep is angry and keep us cynical, because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege.”

“And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments,” he continued. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”

Obama then slammed the party of the President with the refrain, “what happened to the Republican party?” firing off shots at the GOP’s massive spending and unraveling of the Affordable Care Act.

He also hit upon the buzzy anonymous New York Times editorial, decrying actions like snatching papers off the President’s desk as “not normal,” while expressing incredulity that congressional Republicans have refused to check Trump in any meaningful way.

And in a final fusillade, Obama lambasted Trump, saying that it “should not be Democratic or Republican” to not attack the press as enemies of the people, or use the FBI as a political cudgel, or call on the attorney general not to prosecute members of your own party to help win elections.

This gloves-off performance portends a return to Obama’s “fired up and ready to go” campaign style and underscores his conviction that the midterm truly is “the most important election of his lifetime.”

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