WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama delivered his most direct rebuke to his successor Friday, casting Donald Trump’s presidency and its acceptance from Congressional Republicans as “not normal.”
“These are extraordinary times, and they’re dangerous times,” Obama said during remarks at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adding that the upcoming midterm elections offer “the chance to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics.”
Appealing directly to students in attendance, Obama urged young voters to temper their expectations.
“You cannot sit back and wait for a savior,” Obama said. “You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate.”
“This is not a rock concert. This is not Coachella,” he added. “We don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hard-working people who are accountable and who have America’s best interests at heart.”
While Obama has previously been relatively restrained when addressing Trump, the former commander-in-chief questioned the president’s much-touted economic success, his agenda at large and his failure to offer a full-throated condemnation of white supremacists.
“How hard can that be?” Obama asked. “Saying that Nazis are bad.”
Lamenting the current political climate, Obama said that Trump was a “symptom, not a cause.”
“He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years,” Trump said. “A fear and anger that’s rooted in our past, but also borne out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”
Obama’s speech came as he accepted the university’s Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government.
Obama has been playing an active role in the lead up to November’s midterm elections. He has endorsed a slate of over 80 candidates with additional endorsements planned.
He is expected to hit the campaign trail in California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Trump responded to the speech at the top of a fundraiser in Fargo, North Dakota not long after.
“I’m sorry, I watched it but I fell asleep,” Trump said. “I found he’s very good, very good for sleeping.”