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Holding back nothing, Obama's speech runs Trump through shredder

Former President Barack Obama speaks on a live

Former President Barack Obama speaks on a live feed from Philadelphia during Wednesday's Democratic National Convention. Credit: DNCC via Getty Images

44 on 45: No, he can't

As Donald Trump prepared to succeed him as president, Barack Obama said he intended to stay in the background rather than be a constant critic. "I think the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see," Obama said.

Obama told the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night that he's seen enough. “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe,” the 44th U.S. president said from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

Speaking with an intensity of emotion rarely heard from him, Obama warned, "This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win. So we have to get busy building it up."

“I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies,” he said on the third night of the convention. "I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.”

Instead, according to Obama, Trump has "no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves" or using "the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends."

Among those riveted to the screen to watch the historically to watch Obama's fierce takedown was Trump, who yelled back at the TV in the form of all-caps tweets, such as the factually challenged "HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!"

Obama said Democratic candidate Joe Biden, his vice president for eight years, and his running mate, California's Sen. Kamala Harris, have the "ability to lead this country out of dark times and build it back better." The Democrats' 2020 duo, Obama said, "actually care about every American. And they care deeply about this democracy." Click here for video of Obama's speech, and here to read the transcript.

Kamala: Trump compounds our tragedy

Harris' speech to the convention pointed to history — her status as the first woman of color on a major-party ticket — and the historical crossroads in front of the nation in choosing between Biden and Trump.

“Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons," Harris said. "Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.”

Pointing to the disproportionate toll of the coronavirus on Black, Latino and Native American communities and inequities in the criminal justice system, Harris said, "there is no vaccine for racism. We’ve gotta do the work … We’re at an inflection point."

Under Trump, she said, "The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot." Biden, she said, will pursue "the vision that makes the American promise — for all its complexities and imperfections — a promise worth fighting for."

When she concluded her address at Wilmington, Delaware's Chase Center in front of a small live audience of family, staff and news media, Biden joined her onstage for a socially distant air hug. He will speak from there Thursday. Read Harris' full speech in a transcript here

Hillary: Learn from agony of my defeat

The party's 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton, appealed to voters to turn out for Biden in a way they didn't for her. Complacency and hard feelings that led some on the Democratic left to sit out the election four years ago were among the factors that led to her defeat after she ran ahead in polls for much of that campaign.

"For four years, people have said to me, 'I didn’t realize how dangerous he was,' 'I wish I could go back and do it over.' Or worse, 'I should have voted.' Well, this can’t be another woulda coulda shoulda election,” she said.

Clinton added that she had hoped Trump would be "a better president," but "sadly, he is who he is." She wants Trump to be not just beaten but crushed when America votes. "Joe and Kamala can win 3 million more votes and still lose. Take. It. From. Me. We need numbers so overwhelming, Trump can't sneak or steal his way to victory."

Reflecting on the past four years, Clinton said, "Remember in 2016 when Trump asked: 'What do you have to lose?' Well, now we know: our health care, our jobs, our loved ones, our leadership in the world and even our post office."

Trump lights a tire fire

Trump called for a boycott of Goodyear, one of the last U.S.-owned tire making companies, after seeing a report that it had banned employees from wearing political attire at the workplace.

"Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES - They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less!" the president tweeted. Almost all the competitors of the 62,000-employee company based in Akron, Ohio, are foreign-owned.

The uproar was set off after a Kansas TV station reported that workers at a Topeka plant were shown a slide on the political attire ban, and that LGBT pride and "Black Lives Matter" displays were acceptable but "Blue Lives Matter" was not. 

Goodyear denied that the slide was created or distributed by their corporate office, while affirming the policy against campaigning or advocacy "outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.” The company also stated that it has "always wholeheartedly supported both equality and law enforcement and will continue to do so."

At his news conference, Trump said he'd seek to swap out the Goodyear tires on the armored presidential limo if there's an alternative. To critics who said the boycott call would threaten manufacturing jobs in Ohio, an election swing state, and other Goodyear facilities, Trump said the workers could find "another good job" because the economy is growing.

Janison: Cave man

There's a circular pattern to many Trump policy pronouncements, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, that goes as follows.

Trump announces a move in his political self-interest that he lacks the independent power to carry out. Public criticism follows. With little real effort to negotiate support, Trump backs off, making defiant noises to cover the appearance of surrender. 

The Postal Service melodrama is an example. The president said he'd oppose funding as part of his effort to thwart mail-in voting. Backlash ensued when Trump linked the two issues. Congress is supposed to control the funding process anyway, and it will. 

If the goal of the latest White House trip to nowhere was chaos, posturing and simulated action, then the mission was accomplished. If the goal was to improve anything, it amounted to a zero-sum waste of time.

Another dead letter was Trump's executive order to suspend the payroll tax. Businesses call it unworkable, saying it wouldn't benefit their employees as advertised, and so they'll decline to carry out his campaign promise.

Flipping the Q cards

After many months of giving winks to his followers from the far-right QAnon cult, Trump on Wednesday gave it an approving nod. A QAnon follower, Marjorie Taylor Greene, received Trump's endorsement as a "future Republican star" last week after she won a Republican House primary runoff in Georgia.

When asked at the news conference whether he supported the QAnon belief that Trump is secretly trying to save the world from a satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals, he didn't knock down the idea.

"I haven’t heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? If I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it, and I’m willing to put myself out there," Trump said.

Trump also said, "I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate."

The cult's conspiracy theory has been blamed for violent incidents — the FBI brands QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat — and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have taken action in recent weeks to suspend groups and accounts associated with it for spreading false information that poses "significant risks to public safety."

Welcome, hater

Trump on Tuesday night had a congratulatory tweet for another fringe GOP primary winner, Laura Loomer, a self-described "proud Islamophobe" running in a House district that covers Florida's Palm Beach County, including Mar-a-Lago.

Loomer, a well-known provocateur in far-right circles, said Muslims shouldn't be allowed to hold public office and called Islam a "cancer on humanity." She was banned by Uber and Lyft after tweeting, “Someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.” She's been thrown off Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Venmo, PayPal and GoFundMe because of hate speech.

An especially gruesome example was her retweet of a headline that more than 2,000 migrants from the Middle East had died crossing the Mediterranean. “Good. Here's to 2,000 more,” Loomer wrote with an applause emoji.

Loomer is a long shot in November against a Democratic incumbent in the heavily Democratic Florida county, unlike Greene's strongly Republican Georgia district.

Coming Thursday

Biden will address the Democratic convention on its final night, his biggest chance to make the case before the American people on why he should be elected president. His allies have said he will focus on his vision of leading with compassion and moving the country past the current pandemic, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

In the run-up to this week’s convention, Biden has consistently polled ahead of Trump, gaining ground among suburban women in particular. The latest Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows Biden ahead by 8 points among registered voters, similar to the margins found in nearly all other surveys in the past week.

Larry Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s Center for Suburban Studies, told Newsday that “convention speeches are the point in the campaign when candidates also begin to pivot toward the middle — particularly to the suburban moderates who decide national elections." But he added that for Biden, "the pivot to the middle is somewhat less perilous … because all factions of the party, except the fringe, have embraced his candidacy.”

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond from Newsday staff, written by Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday reiterated Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the election results. "The president has always said he'll see what happens, and make a determination in the aftermath," she said.
  • Charlie Dent, a seven-term former congressman from Pennsylvania, became the latest Republican to endorse Biden. "For me, it's about right or wrong; stability versus instability; security versus insecurity; normal versus abnormal," Dent said on CNN. He called Trump “a threat to the rule of law and functional democracy.”
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on its Russia investigation included allegations of Trump sexcapades on a Moscow trip in the 1990s, The New York Times reported. Of greatest significance to Senate intelligence investigators was an account of a dalliance with a Miss Moscow. Trump was married to second wife, Marla Maples, at the time.
  • Trump said Wednesday he will demand that all United Nations sanctions be reimposed against Iran. It’s possible that other UN members will ignore his move, The Associated Press reported. The Trump administration's effort to extending the arms embargo was defeated last week.
  • The Army is investigating why two soldiers in uniform were flanking the Democratic delegates of American Samoa during Tuesday night's video roll call at the Democratic convention, ABC News reports. U.S. military personnel are not supposed to participate in political events while in uniform. A convention official said the Samoans wanted to show their support for troops but the framing of the shot was an oversight.

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