Democratic National Convention

Michelle Obama’s speech aims high – but Trump can’t resist going low

Obama delivered the climactic speech on the first night of the Democratic convention, and Trump responded with snark Obama’s rebuke


In her keynote speech to the Democratic national convention on Monday night, Michelle Obama reprised a message from the 2016 campaign in which she urged Democrats not to take Donald Trump up on his insults and mockery.

“When they go low,” she said, “we go high.”

On Tuesday morning, Trump duly went low, attacking Obama after she said he “is clearly in over his head” as president.

“Somebody please explain to Michelle Obama that Donald J Trump would not be here, in the beautiful White House, if it weren’t for the job done by your husband, Barack Obama,” Trump tweeted. “Biden was merely an afterthought.”

Trump went on to accuse Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the former vice-president whom Democrats will officially nominate for president this week, of “treason”, then attacked Michelle again during a White House ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“She was over her head,” the president said, “and frankly, she should’ve made the speech live, which she didn’t do, she taped it. And it was not only taped, it was taped a long time ago, because she had the wrong [coronavirus] deaths and she didn’t even mention the vice-presidential candidate” – Kamala Harris, named by Joe Biden last week.

Trump also complained about the former first lady receiving “fawning reviews” and said he thought her speech was “extremely divisive”.

Obama delivered the climactic address on the first night of a four-day convention produced in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but playing out almost exclusively online, with speakers and entertainers filling two hours of live-streamed content each night.

Trump was one of few Republicans to respond to the former first lady, whose reappearance on the national stage was greeted enthusiastically by Democrats. Obama’s husband is scheduled to address the convention on Wednesday.

“Michelle Obama as anchor can make any relay team a gold-medal winner, but the [Democratic National Committee] did a lot of work for Joe Biden tonight,” tweeted David Axelrod, a former top adviser to Barack Obama.

“Not everything worked, which figures, given the magnitude of the virtual format they’re trying. But much of it did. Solid first night.”

In an unprecedented election season mostly devoid of campaign rallies, handshakes and selfies with the candidate, the Democrats were preparing for a second night of what might be the biggest experiment of all: moving an event meant to display the density of the party’s enthusiasm into the diffuse online world.

Following Eva Longoria on Monday night, the actor Tracee Ellis Ross, star of Girlfriends and Black-ish, was slated to emcee proceedings on Tuesday. The official schedule included a unique “keynote address” by 16 rising stars of the party, including the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

The political star power was to grow through Tuesday evening, with speeches by the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry to be followed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former president Bill Clinton and Dr Jill Biden, the nominee’s wife.

Biden planned to speak from a classroom at a high school in Delaware where she formerly taught English. Officials said she would highlight her husband’s commitment to education and community, as well as his decency.

Michelle Obama, wearing a necklace spelling out V-O-T-E, touched on those themes in her speech while making the case against Trump.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she said. “He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

The last line was an echo of a recent Trump statement about the confirmed death toll in the US from coronavirus-related disease, which has surpassed 170,000.

“We’ve got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it,” Obama said.

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