Former President Barack Obama said at a Detroit rally with Joe Biden, his former running mate turned Democratic presidential nominee, on Saturday that the United States is feeling the effects of having a reality TV show host as president.
“He [President Donald Trump] never took it seriously. He hasn’t shown any interest in just doing the work of helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency as anything more than a reality show to give him the attention that he craves so desperately,” Obama said. “And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences.”
Biden and Obama also held a rally in Flint and made an unannounced stop at a Democratic canvass kickoff in Bloomfield Hills.
The Michigan events were Obama and Biden’s first public campaign events together of the 2020 election cycle. Obama won Michigan by big margins in 2008 and 2012, with Trump notching a narrow victory in 2016. The state is considered a key battleground this election.
Obama said one of the most apparent consequences is the record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States.
“And now we’ve got his chief of staff [Mark Meadows] saying – he said this on TV – he said, ‘We’re not going to control the pandemic,’” Obama said. “We’ve noticed. Yes, you’re right. And that’s why we’ve got to have Joe Biden and [U.S. Sen.] Kamala Harris in the White House, because you’re not going to control the pandemic.”
More than 9.1 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 230,000 have died of the virus. In Michigan, there are 178,180 total cases and 7,340 residents have died from the virus.
Biden said he would “never raise the white flag of surrender.”
“We’re going to beat this virus; we’re going to get it under control,” Biden said. “And the first step of beating this virus is beating Donald Trump.”
Obama addressed a Republican lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a key portion of his legacy, the Affordable Care Act.
“When they’re asked about it, they say, ‘No, no, no, we’re going to repeal it, but we’re going to replace it with something even better, even bigger, more beautiful.’ They’ve promised a new plan for 10 years now. No plan,” Obama said. “They still don’t have a plan. When they’re asked about it, nobody can find it. It’s the same place they put the pandemic playbook we gave them to tell them how to deal with a pandemic: it’s lost, it’s gone.”
Biden said that on his first day in office, he would implement a nationwide plan to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
“On day one of my presidency, we’ll put in action a plan I’ve been talking about for months,” Biden said. “Masking, social distancing, testing, tracing, plan for a full and fair and free distribution of therapeutics and vaccines when we get one.”
Obama said that Trump may be actively contributing to the spread of the virus with his rallies – which shirk social distancing and mask recommendations.
“Some of the places he’s holding rallies have seen new spikes after he leaves town. He’s going around having events, big events, no masks, no protective gear, no precautions. What’s his obsession with crowds, anyways? He’s still talking about his inauguration crowd being small, although he doesn’t admit it,” Obama said. “Does he have nothing better to worry about? What kind of trauma did he go through – did no one come to his birthday parties when he was a kid?”
Obama recognized that voters may not have every concern immediately addressed by the government – but said that’s not a reason to sit out elections.
“That’s what voting’s about. It’s not about making things perfect – it’s about making things better. And better’s good. Putting us on track so that a generation from now we can look back and say ‘you know what, right about then we turned the corner and we started back on a better trajectory,’” Obama said. “The fact that we don’t get 100% of what we want is not a good reason not to vote – it’s a reason to keep voting until we do get it right.”
Biden addressed the president’s recent attacks on the legitimacy of absentee ballots.
“I don’t care how hard Donald Trump tries, there’s nothing he’s going to do to stop the people of America from voting,” Biden said. “And when Americans vote, we will be heard. When America’s heard, I believe the message is going to be loud and clear: it’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home.”
Biden said he does not plan to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, and addressed reports that the president paid just $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.
“You know how to game the system? Well guess what, Mr. President: I’m coming for you,” Biden said, lowering his voice. “We don’t game the system. And when the system gets gamed you all have to pay. It’s not right. It’s not fair.”
Biden joked about the deductions Trump listed.
“Today he said he is a, I think he said, perfect physical specimen. Maybe that’s why he thought he was able to write off $70,000 on his taxes because he needed special hair care,” Biden said. “I tell you what man, I hardly have any hair but I’d rather have what I have.”
Biden said that while he is running as a Democratic candidate, he would govern on behalf of all Americans – something Gov. Gretchen Whitmer touted.
“We’ve got a candidate who can bring us together. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will build bridges not walls, they will seek common ground not scorched Earth,” Whitmer said. “They can bring us together, Spartans and Wolverines, Faygo drinkers and Vernors drinkers, American and Lafayette – they can bring us together.”
Obama said that this is the most important election of our lifetime – which includes his own election.
“Three days until the most important election of our lifetimes. And that includes mine, which was pretty important,” Obama said.
Trump will be back in Michigan to hold rallies in Washington Township at 11 a.m. Sunday, Traverse City at 5 p.m. Monday and Grand Rapids at 10:30 p.m. Monday – seemingly his final campaign stop of the cycle.
Trump also held his last campaign stop of the 2016 election cycle in Grand Rapids, taking the stage after midnight so that it was already Election Day.
More than 2.6 million Michigan residents had already returned absentee ballots as of Friday morning. That’s nearly half of the 5.08 million total ballots cast in the 2008 presidential election when Obama was first elected – which had the highest turnout in Michigan history.
More than 3.3 million Michigan residents have requested absentee ballots, meaning there’s about 700,00 that have yet to be returned.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has warned that voters should return their absentee ballots to a drop box or directly to their local clerk due to delays in the U.S. Postal Service meaning they may not arrive on time to be counted if mailed.