PHILADELPHIA (CBSNewYork/AP) — Their political fates now entwined, President Barack Obama implored voters to elect Hillary Clinton to the White House, joining a chorus of Democrats vouching Wednesday night for her readiness to be commander in chief at time of volatility around the world.
“Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect,” Obama said at the Democratic convention. “And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”
For Democrats, Obama’s address moment was steeped in symbolism, the passing of the baton from a barrier-breaking president to a candidate trying to make history herself.
That symbolic passing of the baton happened after Obama’s speech, as Clinton made a surprise appearance and joined the president on stage to a rousing ovation.
“You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. You can read about it, you can study it, but until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war. But Hillary’s been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions. She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes — what’s at stake for the working family, the senior citizen, the small business owner, the soldier, and the veteran,” Obama said.
Obama kept to his theme that Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for president.
“That’s the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said to thunderous applause.
Obama said this is “not your typical election” for Americans in November.
“It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right,” Obama said. “This is a more fundamental choice — about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.”
Obama told those at the DNC that the rhetoric he heard at the Republican National Convention is “not the America I know.”
“What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate,” Obama said.
However, Obama said, he is “more optimistic about the future of America than ever before.”
Obama said he had a “front-row seat” to what Clinton brought to the table as secretary of state in his administration.
“She was a little surprised, some of my staff was surprised, but ultimately said yes, because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us,” Obama said. “And for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline. I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention – that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.”
Obama also mentioned Bernie Sanders supporters during his speech, saying Americans need to “be as vocal and as organized and as persistent” as them.
“That’s right, feel the Bern,” Obama exclaimed.
His robust support for Clinton, his political foe-turned-friend, is also driven by deep concern that Republican Donald Trump might win in November and unravel the president’s eight years in office.
“The Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy, either,” Obama said of Trump. “He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.”
The president added, “America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.”
Obama touched on Trump previously calling for a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. where terrorists are prevalent and stated that Clinton will take out the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“She’ll finish the job and she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit and she is ready to be the next commander in chief,” Obama said.
Without mentioning her email scandal, Obama said that she has made mistakes, just like all of us.
“Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics. She’s been caricatured by the right and by some on the left; she has been accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you cannot. But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years. She knows during those 40 years that sometimes she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do. That’s what happens when we try,” Obama said.
He mentioned that people around the world are wondering why Trump is a popular political figure.
“People outside the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election, they really don’t,” Obama said.
Obama said all Trump is offering are slogans and fear.
“We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled,” Obama said to applause.
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Obama went through six drafts of his speech, editing it once again after Michelle Obama addressed the DNC Monday night.
Obama plans to campaign for Clinton in the fall.
The Trump campaign said in a statement that it “was a sad night for the Democratic Party.”
“They offered no solutions for the problems facing America – in fact, they pretended those problems don’t even exist. They described a vision of America that doesn’t exist for most Americans, including the seventy percent of Americans who think our country is on the wrong track. Never has a party been so disconnected from what is happening in our world,” the Trump campaign said.
Trump fueled more controversy Wednesday when he encouraged Russia to meddle in the presidential campaign — even as he dismissed suggestions from Obama and other Democrats that Moscow was already acting on his behalf. On the heels of reports that Russia may have hacked Democratic Party emails, Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening,” it would be desirable to see Moscow find and publish the thousands of emails Clinton says she deleted during her years as secretary of state.
To Obama and Clinton, Trump’s comments only fed their contention that the billionaire businessman is unqualified to be commander in chief. Trump has no national security experience and few ties to the norms that have governed U.S. foreign policy under presidents from both parties, including standing by NATO allies threatened by countries including Russia.
“Donald Trump, who wants to be president of the United States, is asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States of America to affect our election,” Leon Panetta, Obama’s former Pentagon chief, said in his convention address.
Wednesday night’s Democratic lineup was aimed at emphasizing Clinton’s own national security credentials. It was a significant shift in tone after two nights spent reintroducing Clinton to voters as a champion for children and families, and relishing in her historic nomination as the first woman to lead a major political party into the general election.
The convention’s third night was also a time for Democrats to celebrate Obama’s two terms in office. Vice President Joe Biden, who decided against running for president this year after the death of his son, called it a “bittersweet moment.”
A son of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden appealed directly to the working class white voters who have been drawn to Trump’s populism, warning them against falling for false promises and exploitation of Americans’ anxieties.
“This guy doesn’t have a clue about the middle class,” he declared.
Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, introduced himself to the nation as a formidable foil to Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump has a passion,” he said. “It’s himself.”
“Believe me!” he exclaimed over and over, imitating Trump’s tone as he ridiculed a list of the Republican’s promises.
Kaine picked up the traditional attacking role of the presidential ticket’s No. 2. With folksy charm, he tore into Trump, mocking his pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border, asking why he has not released his tax returns and slamming his business record, including the now-defunct Trump University.
“Folks, you cannot believe one word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” Kaine said. “Our nation is too great to put it in the hands of slick-talking, empty-promising, self-promoting, one-man wrecking crew.”
Liberals, particularly those who supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have grumbled about Kaine being on the ticket, particularly because of his support for “fast track” approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Several delegates held up anti-TPP signs as he spoke.
In a move aimed at broadening Clinton’s appeal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — an independent who considered launching a third party bid for president — endorsed the Democratic nominee. A billionaire businessman himself, Bloomberg took aim at Trump’s bankruptcies, reliance on foreign factories and other economic experience: “The richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”
President Bill Clinton, filling the role of devoted political spouse, joined the crowd packed to the arena rafters in cheering the attacks on Trump.
Clinton’s campaign believes Trump’s unorthodox candidacy will turn off moderate Republicans, particularly women, who worry he’s too unpredictable to take the helm in a turbulent world. They recognize that Republicans, as well as many Democrats, have questions about Clinton’s character but hope to ease those concerns.
Still, the core of Clinton’s strategy is putting back together Obama’s winning White House coalition. In both his campaigns, Obama carried more than 90 percent of black voters, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics, and more than half of young people and women.
That coalition was vividly on display in the first two nights of the convention in Philadelphia. Women lawmakers were prominently featured, along with young activists, immigrants, and mothers whose black children were victims of gun violence or killed during encounters with law enforcement.
Gun violence continued as a theme Wednesday night as families of mass shooting victims took the stage. Delegates rose in an emotional standing ovation for the mother of one of the victims in last month’s Orlando nightclub shooting, who asked why “commonsense” gun policies weren’t in place when her son died.
“I never want you to ask that question about your child,” Christine Leinonen said.
Capping the somber section of the program focused on gun violence, a group of Broadway singers performed a rousing rendition of “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” as the audience sang and swayed in unison.
Clinton’s convention has been awash in history, with energized delegates celebrating her formal nomination as the first woman to ever lead a major political party in the general election. Some supporters of Sanders, her primary opponent, continued to voice their displeasure.
But Sanders, meeting with New England delegates, said, “As of yesterday, I guess, officially our campaign ended.”
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