Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday will assail the character and competence of his successor in a blistering speech at the Democratic National Convention.
In attacks that verge on the personal, Mr. Obama will blame Mr. President Trump for the deaths from coronavirus and the jobs lost trying to fight the outbreak, according to the prepared remarks.
He accuses Mr. Trump of treating the Oval Office like a reality-TV show “to get the attention he craves” while spoiling everything that is good about America.
Mr. Obama says he didn’t expect Mr. Trump to carry on his policies or his vision, but what followed was far worse.
“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. But he never did,” says Mr. Obama.
He will deliver the fiery attack a day before his former vice president, Joseph R. Biden, accepts the Democratic presidential nomination for the chance to oust Mr. Trump and potentially restore the dismantled Obama legacy.
Mr. Obama is not the first former president to criticize his successor but the setting and tenor of the attack is nevertheless jarring.
“He’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves,” Mr. Obama’s prepared remarks say.
Mr. Obama continues, “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead; millions of jobs gone; our worst impulses unleashed; our proud reputation around the world badly diminished; and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”
Responding to the excerpts of the speech that were released early by the DNC, Mr. Trump fired back during a White House press briefing.
He called Mr. Obama “ineffective” and “so terrible.”
“If they did a good job, I wouldn’t be here,” Mr. Trump said. “They did such a bad job that I stand before you as president.”
He also slammed “the stupidity of the transactions” that Mr. Obama made and said the economic recovery under the Obama administration took too long.
He reminded viewers of the thriving economy before the pandemic hit, though he added that Wall Street has been performing well.
Mr. Obama, who remains immensely popular with Democrats, will attempt in his speech to transfer some of his appeal to Mr. Biden.
“I’m well aware that in times as polarized as these, most of you have already made up your mind. But maybe you’re still not sure which candidate you’ll vote for – or whether you’ll vote at all,” he says. “Maybe you’re tired of the direction we’re headed, but you can’t yet see a better path, or you just don’t know enough about the person who wants to lead us there.”
He then makes the pitch for “my friend Joe Biden.”
“Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother. Joe and I came from different places and different generations. But what I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief,” says Mr. Obama. “Joe’s a man who learned early on to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: ‘No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.’”
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.
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