Washington: Former US President Barack Obama delivered a diatribe against his successor Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing him of mismanaging the pandemic, as he appealed to the people to come out and vote in favour of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Jumping into the electoral campaign in support of his former vice president Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, Obama appealed to the people to defeat Trump and elect the Biden-Harris team on November 3.
"They have a plan for the economy and the coronavirus pandemic," Obama said in his maiden campaign appearance, asserting that the "Biden-Harris team will bring character and leadership back to government".
Obama spoke as the sun set, the sky going from pink to gray, framed by the clouds and the Lincoln Financial Field behind him. He stood by himself on stage, far from even the cars in the lot. His podium was sanitised before he spoke, and though he was without a mask for the speech, he put a 'VOTE mask' on soon after he finished, before walking off.
"We cannot afford four more years of this, Philadelphia," Obama said in his blistering attack against Trump, which is quite unusual for a former president against an incumbent one.
"The idea that this White House has done anything but screw this up is just untrue," Obama said at a drive-in rally.
"Tweeting at the television doesn't fix things. Making stuff up doesn't make things better. You've got to have a plan. We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook... They probably used it to prop up a wobbly table somewhere," he said.
Referring to a recent news report that Trump maintains a bank account in China, the former US president said, "He's got a secret Chinese bank account. How is that possible? Can you imagine if I had had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for re-election. You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that. They would have called me Beijing Barry."
"Donald Trump isn't going to protect us. He can barely take the basic steps to protect himself. If he'd actually been working the whole time, it never would have gotten this bad," Obama said.
"Trump tweeted about secret cabals running the world or that Navy SEALs didn't kill (Osama) bin Laden. Think about that. The president of the United States retweeted that. Imagine that. What? What?" he said.
Describing it as the "most important election of the lifetime", Obama urged his countrymen to go out and vote and not to be complacent like they did in 2016.
"We've got to turn out like never before. We cannot leave any doubt in this election. We can't be complacent. I don't care about the polls," he said.
"Our democracy is not gonna work if the people who are supposed to be our leaders lie every day and just make things up," Obama said. "This notion of truthfulness and democracy and citizenship and being responsible — these aren't Republican or Democratic principles. They're American principles. ... We need to reclaim them," Obama said.
At an earlier campaign stop in Philadelphia, Obama said that over the last four years, he has lost hope. "And reason is because I never expected progress to move in a straight line," he said.
Afterward, Obama made a very brief stop at a canvassing event where he was greeted by two young children whose parents encouraged them to get closer, but he kept his distance, waving at them.
"At the end of the day, people connect with people. And obviously this is an extraordinary election, because we're in the midst of a pandemic, and we've got to make sure that we're doing it safely, which is the only reason I'm not hugging and squeezing this cutie-pie," he said, pointing to the little girl, "because I'm trying to model good hygiene. But nevertheless folks, seeing your effort out there is going to be inspiring."
Obama exuded confidence that Biden will win. "We are going to be able to restore the kind of spirit of hope and change and possibility we all believe in," he said.
In a statement, Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director, said Biden is "clearly not up to the rigours" of campaigning for president, so he's calling in Obama as a reinforcement.
"And it begs the question: How much did Obama know about his White House being for sale to the highest foreign bidder while Joe Biden was his Vice President? We now know that Hunter Biden was on a world tour, selling access to his powerful father," he said.
There's a reason Obama waited until there were no Democrats left in the primaries before he finally endorsed Joe Biden, Murtaugh said.
"It's because Biden has been a failure for 47 years in Washington and is now compromised by the Communist Party of China. And Obama can't help Biden defend his own record of putting foreign interests ahead of working Americans in bad trade policies, crushing our energy jobs under massive regulations, killing manufacturing jobs, and refusing to enforce our borders," he alleged.