Barack Obama isn’t technically running for office, but during a speech in Elkhart, Indiana, Wednesday night, he touted the success of his administration’s economic policy in a manufacturing town he first visited during the Great Recession. In doing so, he also criticized the economic (and foreign, and immigration) policy of Republican nominee Donald Trump, indirectly attempting to tip the scales in favor of the Democratic presidential nominee.
“The primary story that Republicans have been telling about the economy is not supported by the facts,” the president said. “But they say it anyway.” That “myth,” he said, is one of “crazy, liberal government spending,” and it’s not true. Outside of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Obama said his administration spent less on domestic priorities than Ronald Reagan’s.
Obama opened his speech by outlining Republicans’ (a.k.a. Trump’s) view of the economy as it stands:
So their basic story is, America’s working class, America’s middle class, has been victimized by a big, loaded federal government run by a bunch of left-wing elitists like me. And the government is taking your hard-earned tax dollars and giving them to freeloaders and welfare cheats, and we’re strangling business with endless regulations, and this federal government is letting immigrants and foreigners steal whatever jobs Obamacare hasn’t killed yet.
The audience laughed, but Obama promised he was serious. The Republican economic agenda is a direct response to that “story,” he said, and it won’t help working-class families. “When I hear working families thinking about voting for those plans, I want to have an intervention,” he said of Trump’s vision. “That’s not going to make your lives better. That will help people like him.”
Then, Obama dismantled each piece of the Republican vision. First, he noted that the government’s deficit had actually shrunk during his and Bill Clinton’s term, while it grew during George W. Bush’s and Ronald Reagan’s. He called for immigration reform, saying that deporting 11 million immigrants is a “fantasy” that “wouldn’t do anything to help the middle class.”
“Look, in today’s economy we can’t put up walls around America,” he went on. “We’re not going to deport 11 million people. We’re not going to put technology back in the box.”
He then admonished Republicans for complaining about Wall Street regulations following the economic crash of his early presidency. “Have we really forgotten what happened just eight years ago?” he asked. “Why would you do that? Less oversight on Wall Street would only make another crisis more likely.”
Obama mentioned Trump’s name only once, and the audience booed. “No, don’t boo him; we’re voting,” he said before going on to rip Trump’s blowhard style: Don’t “fall for a bunch of okey-doke just because you know it sounds funny or the tweets are provocative,” he warned.
The president’s speech is likely a preview of what’s to come if (or when) he hits the campaign trail in support of the Democratic nominee. And, although Hillary Clinton isn’t officially the party’s nominee, she’s all but mathematically ensured the nomination, especially if she performs well in next Tuesday’s California primary.
In an interview today, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN he believes Obama will endorse the nominee “very quickly,” giving him time while still in office to throw his weight behind the candidate. “The president has already done a fantastic job … explaining why Donald Trump is such a threat,” Mook said. “I think he’ll be out there campaigning vigorously.” After all, “No one is better qualified to talk about what it takes to be our commander in chief.”