Obama to Trump: We don't look to be ruled

In six words, Barack Obama framed the contrast between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the November poll to elect the next US President. "We don't look to be ruled."

By K.P. Nayar
  • Published 29.07.16
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Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. (AFP)

July 28: In six words, Barack Obama framed the contrast between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the November poll to elect the next US President. "We don't look to be ruled."

Those six words in Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia were delivered at the right place at the right time. For many of the millions of Americans who listened to their President's prime time speech, there was a chilling link in those words to Vladimir Putin who rules Russia with an firm hand.

Americans thought of the Russian strongman as Obama was speaking because only a few hours earlier Trump had openly invited Moscow at a news conference to engage in espionage in Washington.

"Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing" from Clinton's private server which has been the subject of a federal investigation for several months.

Trump has repeatedly abjured political correctness ever since he plunged into the US presidential contest a year ago, but even by his standards an open invitation to Russia, a long-standing enemy, to interfere in America's general election was a departure that was the ultimate in political heresy.

If Trump emerges unscathed from this latest minefield, everything else that may be thrown at him in the ensuing election may be water off the duck's back and he may just win the White House.

Encouraged in the previous 24 hours by American intelligence assessments that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers on the eve of the party convention in Philadelphia, Obama pressed his comparison between Trump and Putin although the US President did not name his Russian counterpart.

"America has never been about what one person says he will do for us. It has always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government. And that is what Hillary Clinton understands.

"That even when you are 100 per cent right, getting things done requires compromise... She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, see ourselves in each other."

Obama tore into the Republican candidate with his now famous oratory. "And then there is Donald Trump. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who have achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated."

The worst was yet to come. "He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, and tells the Nato allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection... America is already great. America is already strong.

"And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. In fact, it doesn't depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election - the meaning of our democracy."

Trump's invitation to Russia to meddle in the US presidential election instantly invited rebuke from the American national security community, even from those who had served in highly sensitive posts under Republican Presidents.

Gen. Michael Hayden, who was director of the CIA when George W. Bush was President, said: "If he (Trump) is talking about the state department emails on her (Clinton's) server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information. Perhaps he doesn't know what he is talking about."

Former US ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul, said: "I just find it deeply troubling that any American, let alone one running for President of the US, would encourage Russian espionage. That is just, is unprecedented to me."

Alarmed by the potential fallout from Trump's latest assault on the red lines in campaigning, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani played it down as a "joke." Overnight, Trump himself tried to walk back on his comments and to limit the damage.

Sources at the White House who are familiar with Obama's speaking schedules said the President's speech at his party convention went into six drafts prepared by his speechwriters. Then on the eve of his address, Obama decided to rewrite the sixth draft himself after watching the video of his wife Michelle's speech to the convention which was a show-stopper.

These sources said the President stayed up till 2.30 am on the day of his engagement in Philadelphia working on his speech.

Michelle Obama who has been the star of the convention so far, feared that her presence among the party delegates while her husband was addressing the convention might steal the limelight away from Obama. So she went to her mother's house in Chicago and watched the proceedings from there on television.

After the First Lady's stage performance on the opening night of the convention, Clinton has requested Michelle Obama to campaign for her from coast-to-coast. White House said schedules for the First Lady are yet to be drawn up. But the expectation is that she will plunge into the campaign on behalf of Clinton in early autumn when the election season is in full steam.