WILMINGTON (AFP) – Barack Obama, America’s first black president, will use his Democratic convention speech Wednesday to brand President Donald Trump as someone who never took his office seriously, putting US democracy in danger.
Obama said that on handing over the White House to Trump in 2017, he thought the Republican “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,” Obama said, according to excerpts of his speech released early.
As a result, Trump has left America’s “worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before,” Obama said.
The speech — due later in the evening when Senator Kamala Harris formally accepts the nomination to be Joe Biden’s running mate and the first black woman on a major party ticket — is one of the highlights of the Democratic convention running until Thursday.
Former first lady Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump, will also address the convention, which has been forced due to coronavirus safety measures to be staged almost entirely online.
Others on the bill include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who unsuccessfully challenged Biden for the nomination, and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives.
Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who has become a gun control advocate after being shot and severely wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt, is also scheduled to speak along with Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting.
Young activists are to address the dangers of climate change and a Hispanic family is to discuss the contributions of immigrants to America.
But the highlights of the evening are expected to be Obama’s speech and the formal nomination of Harris to be the Democratic vice presidential candidate.
Obama took a back seat during the hotly contested Democratic primaries but is now throwing his still considerable sway behind Biden’s campaign.
“Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of dark times and build it back better,” he will say in his upcoming speech.
‘There’s only chaos’
Obama will be speaking two days after his wife, Michelle Obama, opened the convention with a scathing takedown of Trump, painting him as a man who lacks the competence, character and decency for the job.
“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.”
Tuesday’s lineup featured two former presidents — 95-year-old Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, 74, who warned that the Trump White House is swirling with chaos instead of the competence necessary to address the nation’s crises.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center,” Clinton said.
Biden, 77, the former Delaware senator who served as Obama’s vice president for eight years, was officially nominated on Tuesday to take on Trump in the November 3 election.
Ahead in the polls, he will deliver an acceptance speech on Thursday at the conclusion of the four-day convention, which was to have been held in the battleground state of Wisconsin but was shifted to an online format because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Harris, the California senator whom Biden picked to be his vice president, is to give a primetime speech formally accepting her historic nomination.
She will speak live from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden’s hometown which has become his headquarters for a campaign taking place under the shadow of the health crisis.
The nomination is the latest in a lifetime of firsts for the 55-year-old daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother who were immigrants to the United States.
Harris was the first black attorney general of California, the first woman to hold the post, and the first woman of South Asian heritage to be elected to the US Senate.
She is the first black woman to feature on the ticket of a major US political party and is seeking to become the first female vice president of the United States.
The Republican Party is to hold its virtual convention next week and nominate Trump to serve four more years.
Trump has chosen the White House South Lawn as the location for his acceptance speech — a controversial decision given that presidents are legally required to separate their campaigning from taxpayer-funded governing.