US Elections 2016

Emotions run high as Obama rallies party behind Clinton

Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton, his bitter rival for the Democratic presidential nomination eight years ago, embracing each other on Wednesday.
Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton, his bitter rival for the Democratic presidential nomination eight years ago, embracing each other on Wednesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He lavishes praise on her as he tears down Republicans' fearmongering

There was a symbolic passing of the torch from the Democratic Party's current standard bearer to its next one on an often emotional night at the party's convention in Philadelphia.

Many in the jam-packed arena were in tears while holding signs that read "Yes we can" and "Thank you" as US President Barack Obama and Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton embraced each other tightly and waved to the crowd.

The electrifying scenes came as Mr Obama concluded one of his trademark soaring speeches, this time to build up the person who was, just eight years ago, a bitter political opponent.

That praise included hailing Mrs Clinton as even more prepared for the job than either he or former president Bill Clinton was when they ran for the Oval Office.

"I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman - not me, not Bill, nobody - more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America," he said, drawing a standing ovation from a beaming Mr Clinton.

He added: "I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me."

The moment illustrated just how intertwined the Obamas and the Clintons have become, and it is clear that the current President sees in Mrs Clinton the only guarantee that his legacy will be preserved.

RINGING ENDORSEMENT

I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman - not me, not Bill, nobody - more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.

US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, with a nod to former president Bill Clinton.

While he gave his strongest praise of Mrs Clinton yet, he also sought to reject the dire vision of America presented by the Republicans a week ago.

"In this election, I'm asking you to join me - to reject cynicism and reject fear, and to summon what is best in us... and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation."

YES TO MADAM PRESIDENT

Speaking is difficult for me, but come January, I want to say these two words - Madam President!

FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, who was shot in the head in 2011 by a deranged gunman.

Mr Obama's final convention speech as President dominated a night when Democratic bigwigs came out to make the case for Mrs Clinton and against Republican nominee Donald Trump.

More than on any previous night, the speakers used their time to rebut charges from the Republicans and attack their rivals for what they saw as a "dangerous" nominee. They even sought to seize the mantle as the party that will be better at national security - a traditional strong suit of the Republicans.

Former defence secretary Leon Panetta, for instance, hammered Mr Trump for remarks he made earlier in the day in which he seemed to encourage Russian hackers to infiltrate Mrs Clinton's e-mails.

"As someone who was responsible for protecting our nation from cyber attacks, it's inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be this irresponsible.

"Donald Trump cannot become our commander-in-chief."

Then, in a move that used to be considered too politically risky for a national convention, the Democrats invited speakers to talk about gun violence and the need for restrictions.

Perhaps the most uplifting moment of the day came when Broadway stars sang Jackie DeShannon's What The World Needs Now Is Love. The song brought the delegates to their feet, many holding hands as they joined in the singing.

Despite signs of unity, there were reminders that the divisions so evident earlier in the convention had not magically healed.

The acceptance speech by vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine was disrupted by factions chanting their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. Mr Kaine has previously voiced support for the 12-nation pact.

The group also held their anti-TPP signs aloft throughout Mr Obama's speech though they did not heckle the President.

Mr Obama remains the most likely uniter of the party and he reached out to the disaffected factions in his speech.

"Hillary's got her share of critics. She has been caricatured by the right and by some on the left. She's been accused of everything you can imagine - and some things that you cannot. But she knows that's what happens when you're under a microscope for 40 years.

"She knows that sometimes during those 40 years, she's made mistakes - just like I have; just like we all do. That's what happens when we try," he said.

"If you're serious about our democracy, you can't afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You've got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn't a spectator sport."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2016, with the headline 'Emotions run high as Obama rallies party behind Clinton'. Print Edition | Subscribe