WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said that Donald Trump’s “unbelievable rhetoric” shows he is “insecure” and “pumps himself up by putting other people down,” commenting on Sunday for the first time since Trump’s lewd video surfaced.
Obama spoke about Trump hours before the Republican nominee’s debate with Hillary Clinton. The president was headlining a fundraiser on Chicago’s South Side for Senate candidate Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who is running for the Senate seat Obama once held.
The event, with about 250 donors and raising between $350,000 and $400,000 for Duckworth’s bid, was one of her highest grossing events ever, a Duckworth campaign official said.
While Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and other Democrats were at the afternoon event, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, was not present.
Steinberg: Pelosi says Trump symptom of GOP repressive values
Alec Baldwin echoes Donald Trump’s foul language on ‘SNL’
Melania Trump: Donald Trump’s words ‘unacceptable and offensive’
Sweet: Amid lewd-tape fallout Donald Trump needs a debate miracle
Duckworth is battling Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who Obama did not mention by name. Rather, Obama associated Kirk and all Republicans with Trump, whose campaign has descended into chaos because of the tape.
Though Kirk has called on Trump to quit the race, Obama zeroed in on Kirk’s political vulnerability: that his seat could be the difference between the Senate being controlled by Democrats or Republicans.
Even as Kirk casts himself as a moderate — and sometimes crosses the aisle, as he did in calling for a hearing and a vote for Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Kirk still supports the GOP Senate leadership who control the chamber
Linking Kirk to Trump — and Trump’s string of previous controversial remarks — Obama said, “Are we really going to risk giving Donald Trump the majority he needs to roll back all the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years? I don’t think so.
“One of the most disturbing things about this election is just the unbelievable rhetoric coming at the top of the Republican ticket. I don’t need to repeat it; there are children in the room. But demeaning women, degrading women, but also minorities, immigrants, people of other faiths. Mocking the disabled. Insulting our troops, insulting our veterans.
“That tells you a couple things. It tells you that he’s insecure enough that he pumps himself up by putting other people down. Not a character trait that I would advise for somebody in the Oval Office. It tells you that he doesn’t care much about the basic values that we try to impart to our kids.
“It tells you he’d be careless with the civility and the respect that a real, vibrant democracy requires. And it sure as heck tells you he’s never met somebody as tough or smart or patriotic as Tammy Duckworth. If you want to see leadership, that’s the kind of leadership that you’ve got to look for,” Obama said.
Obama has been a champion of Duckworth for years, tapping her in his first year in office to a top spot in the Veterans Administration, which she vacated in order to run for the House. He met Duckworth when he was a senator and boosted her in her first run for Congress in 2006.
He recounted “Tammy’s amazing story,” relating how she lost her legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Obama also praised her work with veterans. A centerpiece of Kirk’s campaign is his attack on Duckworth’s tenure as head of the Illinois VA department.
“Don’t let anybody tell you there’s not a clear choice in this election,” Obama said.
Obama wrapped up a long weekend in Chicago at the Duckworth event held at the Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave, founded by one of the hosts, Theaster Gates, a professor in the Department of Visual Art and Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago. The other hosts of the Sunday funder for Duckworth were Obama Foundation chair Martin Nesbitt, and his wife, physician Anita Blanchard; and Democratic activist John Atkinson and his wife, Bonnie.
The proceeds go to the Illinois Coordinated Victory Fund 2016, a joint fundraising committee with the Democratic Party of Illinois and Tammy for Illinois.