It takes a real political pro to take down a rival without ever mentioning his name.
Meet Michelle Obama, the popular first lady who on Friday made her inaugural stop for fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. On a college campus, she encouraged young people to register to vote, praised Clinton’s tenacity and eviscerated Donald Trump without ever letting his name escape her lips.
“There is only one person in this election that we can trust,” Mrs. Obama said.
The First Lady’s appearance came just hours after Trump finally seemed to drop a years-long obsession with her husband’s birthplace. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, but Trump has long fueled suspicion that he was born abroad, was not a U.S. citizen and ineligible to even hold the office.
“There were those who questioned and continue to question for the past eight years up through this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country,” she said at George Mason University, near Washington, D.C. Her comment drew jeers for Trump. “Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples that he has set, by going high when they go low.”
From there, she went on to undercut Trump, a first-time candidate with no record in government but plenty of pizazz as a former reality TV host and real estate developer. “A President just can’t pop-off,” Mrs. Obama said.
By contrast, Mrs. Obama said, Clinton is one of the few people who know what the job entails: “the staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stresses. And here’s the thing: She still wants to take it on.”
Mrs. Obama, one of the nation’s most popular Democrats, is an in-demand figure for campaigns around the country. Her speech on Friday left little doubt of her opinions about Trump, and promised she would campaign between now and November to help Clinton.
The country, she said, cannot afford someone “erratic” or “threatening,” who buys into conspiracy theories and rumors. The President should not “take advantage” of those less advantaged or less powerful. “We live in a country where a girl like me on the South Side of Chicago, whose great-great grandfather was a slave, can go to some of the finest universities on earth,” Obama said.
Mrs. Obama cautioned that the unusual traits Trump displays as a candidate will only be amplified if elected, warning short tempers only get shorter when the stakes are higher than the Electoral College. “A candidate is not going to suddenly change when they are in office.”
Speaking personally, Mrs. Obama shook her head when someone in the crowd chanted “four more years.” Her reply: “No,” drawn to last several beats.
“I have to say this, you have me and Barack working on your behalf for the rest of our lives. So no need to worry. We’re going to be here,” she said before laughing about the end of eight years in the White House. “My husband’s going to need a new job. I’m going to have to need to find a job. We’re going to be moving to a new home, so we’ll have to pack. We have to get the old house cleaned up so we can get our security deposit back.”