President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton used their first joint campaign appearance to paint congressional Republicans as an anchor on economic and domestic progress and Donald Trump as unfit to be president.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s message to an adoring audience in Charlotte was that Obama laid a foundation on which she is uniquely qualified to build upon. And the outgoing president blamed Republican foes on Capitol Hill for his inability to do more.
Clinton praised Obama for avoiding a second Great Depression as he came into office in January 2009, ordering the strike that killed Osama bin Laden , addressing climate change and other policies. Minutes later, he said more could have been done during his presidency if only it weren’t for Republicans in Congress.
The legislative dysfunction that has plagued his presidency is “not the fault” of labor unions or immigrants or “some liberal-socialist scheme,” Obama told the crowd.
Rather, he blamed “Republicans in Congress and Republican governors” for “blocking these ideas for eight years — it’s that simple.” Republican lawmakers and aides, for their part, often describe a 44th president and White House staff that often is unwilling to compromise and unskilled at finding common ground when it tries.
Obama suggested Clinton would have a better working relationship with GOP lawmakers, noting she worked with some of the same Republicans as first lady who were eager to drive her husband, Bill Clinton , from the Oval Office.
“Hillary knows how to build coalitions,” Obama said.
Of Clinton, Obama proclaimed “there has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton. Ever. And that’s the truth."
Clinton and Obama noted the U.S. economy has steadily — some Republicans say sluggishly — recovered, and unemployment decreased, during Obama's years in office. She said she would pursue policies to keep that trend going.
Brad Bannon , a Democratic strategist, heard a message mostly “aimed at independents. I didn’t hear a lot of the usual red meat you hear when Hillary’s talking to the base.” When it comes to talking about job creation, “that’s something that appeals to everyone,” he said.
Asked if Clinton was arguing for a third term of Obama’s policies, Bannon replied: “If that’s how she wants to cast this, it’s a pretty damn good way to go because the president is only getting more popular.”
[ Trade War: Obama, Trump Battle Over Massive Deals ] The duo also took a few rhetorical jabs at Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
“A bunch of phony bluster doesn’t keep us safe,” Obama said in a thinly veiled swipe at Trump. “[Clinton] will deploy diplomacy whenever possible … but I know she will never hesitate to use force when it is necessary to protect us.”
The president hit Trump over his propensity to Tweet out criticisms of foes and vague policy promises, saying using Twitter is not a qualification to be commander in chief.
Clinton trumpeted Obama as “a president who knows how to keep us safe and strong,” but quickly pivoted to her general election opponent.
“Compare that to Donald Trump . Can you imagine him sitting in the Oval Office the next time America faces a crisis?” she said, calling the real estate mogul “unqualified” and temperamentally “unfit” to be president.
[ Republicans Shocked White House Won't Bite on Zika Funding ] Though Obama in recent weeks has appeared to veer into campaign mode during speeches and other public appearances, Tuesday marked his first 2016 rally. White House aides have described the president as eager to get out on the trail one last time, saying he believes the stakes are high in this cycle.
Yet Obama and Clinton didn't mention FBI Director James Comey 's announcement earlier Tuesday that his agency would not recommend the former secretary of state be prosecuted over her use of private email servers while running the State Department.
Comey called Clinton and her staff at the time "extremely careless" in their handling of her emails. In a striking revelation Trump surely will repeat until Election Day , Comey added: “It is possible that hostile actors had access to Secretary Clinton's email account.”
GOP lawmakers and pundits continued to hammer Clinton and Comey, even as she and Obama were prepared to speak.
Though Obama and Clinton did not reference Comey’s announcement, Bannon said Obama appeared to counter the GOP criticism by touting her performance as secretary of state, which the president called “great.”