Barack Obama criticised Donald Trump’s tenure in office on Friday in a series of speeches in Milwaukee and Detroit that took aim at the president and other Republicans for “making stuff up”.
The speeches were among Obama’s sharpest and most direct critiques of his successor, but he was careful to not mention Trump by name. He said the “character of our country is on the ballot” in the first midterm election since Trump took office.
Obama cited a recent Trump comment that he would pass a tax cut before the November election. “Congress isn’t even in session before the election. He just makes it up,” he said.
Nor did Obama spare the Republicans more broadly. They were were lying when they said they wanted to protect people with pre-existing conditions while trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he said, a reference to Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker.
“What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly, lying. Just making stuff up,” Obama said. “Calling up down. Calling black white. That’s what your governor is doing with these ads, just making stuff up,” he said.
In Michigan, Obama credited the Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer for helping to expand Medicaid and said “few people fought against it harder” than her Republican opponent, the state attorney general Bill Schuette.
He said voters could trust Senator Debbie Stabenow to protect people with pre-existing conditions because she was there to help pass his health law. She is facing a challenge from Republican John James, whom Obama criticised for saying he backs Trump’s agenda “2,000%”.
Obama also used the subject of Hillary Clinton’s private email server to accuse Republicans of trying to “scare the heck out of people before every election” and also to mock Trump about the Chinese spying on his cellphone.
“In the last election, it was Hillary’s emails. ‘This is terrible’ … ‘This is a national security crisis’. They didn’t care about emails and you know how you know? Because if they did, they’d be up in arms right now that the Chinese are listening to the president’s iPhone that he leaves in his golf cart.”
Obama spoke about the migrant caravan from Central America bound for the United States as another example of a Republican scare tactic.
“Now the latest, they’re trying to convince everybody to be afraid of a bunch of impoverished, malnourished refugees a thousand miles away,” he said. “That’s the thing that is the most important thing in this election,” he said. “Not healthcare, not whether or not folks are able to retire, doing something about higher wages, rebuilding our roads and bridges and putting people back to work.”
“Suddenly,” he continued, changing his voice to a high-pitch to strike a mocking tone: “It’s these group of folks. We don’t even know where they are. They’re right down there.”
Referring to Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp”, Obama said “they have gone to Washington and just plundered away”. “In Washington they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team,” he said. “Nobody in my administration got indicted.”
Obama’s visit to Milwaukee was the first time he was in the city for a political event since March 2016, when he came to celebrate enrolment numbers in the Affordable Care Act. He did not campaign for Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, a state she narrowly lost and which proved crucial to Trump becoming president.
The Democrats also lostMichiganin 2016, despite Obama’s visit the day before the election.