Obama rebukes Trump and Republicans for
'abuses of power,' urges Democrats to vote
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[September 10, 2018]
By John Whitesides
(Reuters) - Former U.S. President Barack
Obama assailed President Donald Trump and Republicans on Friday, urging
Democrats to deliver a check on the administration's "abuses of power"
and restore a sense of sanity to politics by voting in November's
In an unusually blistering attack on his successor, Obama said Americans
were living in dangerous times and accused Republicans of threatening
democracy, dividing the country, undermining global alliances and
cozying up to Russia.
"In two months we have the chance, not the certainty, but the chance to
restore some semblance of sanity to our politics," he said in a speech
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "There is actually
only one check on bad policy and abuses of power, and that's you and
Both parties are urging their core supporters to get to the polls for
the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats need to pick up 23 seats in
the House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to gain
majorities in Congress and slam the brakes on Trump's agenda.
Obama, who had frustrated some Democrats by keeping a relatively low
profile since leaving office in January 2017, accused Republicans of
being unwilling to safeguard democracy or offer a check on Trump's
policies or worst instincts.
He said voters would have to do it instead.
"In the end, the threat to our democracy doesn't just come from Donald
Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress," he said. "The
biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to
our democracy is cynicism."
Trump was dismissive of Obama's speech.
"I'm sorry, I watched it but I fell asleep," he said during a fundraiser
in North Dakota. "I found that he's very, very good for sleeping."
The November elections have been seen as a referendum on Trump, who has
fulfilled campaign promises to cut taxes and regulations but who faces a
widening special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016
presidential election and growing questions about his fitness for
office, even by some within his administration.
Obama ridiculed Trump for taking credit for economic gains that began
under Obama's administration, and said Trump was exploiting cultural
fears and economic anger that have grown in recent years amid societal
"It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,"
Obama said. "He's just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have
been fanning for years."
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Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of
Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois, U.S., September 7,
2018. REUTERS/John Gress
'RESENTMENT AND PARANOIA'
Until now, Obama had been reluctant to criticize his successor
publicly, although last week he appeared to chide Trump, without
naming him, in a eulogy for the late Republican Senator John McCain.
But he dropped that political reticence in Illinois, the state where
he launched his own political career, saying a vote against
Republicans could restore "honesty and decency and lawfulness" to
"If you thought that elections don't matter, I hope these last two
years have corrected that impression," he said. "The politics of
division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home
in the Republican Party."
Republicans shrugged off Obama's criticism.
"In 2016, voters rejected President Obama's policies and his
dismissiveness towards half the country. Doubling down on that
strategy won't work in 2018 either," said Republican National
Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens.
If Democrats win control of one or both chambers in Congress in
November, they would be able not just to stymie Trump's agenda but
to launch investigations of the Trump administration.
Trump told supporters in Montana on Thursday that Republicans needed
to maintain control of Congress to stave off possible impeachment
proceedings against him, although Democrats have played down any
discussion of that approach.
"If it (impeachment) does happen, it's your fault, because you
didn't go out to vote. OK? You didn't go out to vote. You didn't go
out to vote. That's the only way it could happen," Trump told the
Obama will hit the campaign trail on Saturday, appearing at a
campaign event in southern California before heading to Ohio next
week and to Illinois and Pennsylvania later in the month.
In August, Obama endorsed 81 Democratic contenders in 14 states,
emphasizing young, diverse candidates running for state-level
offices in an attempt to help new party leaders establish
(Reporting by John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey
in Washington and Steve Holland in North Dakota; Editing by Frances
Kerry and Dan Grebler)
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