Michelle Obama takes aim at Donald Trump in scathing convention speech

Michelle Obama did not spare President Donald Trump in her virtual address to the Democratic convention.

Four years ago the then first lady had told the party meeting during Hillary Clinton's doomed bid for the presidency "when they (the Republicans) go low, we go high".

After nearly four years of Mr Trump's presidency, she did not mince her words.

"If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me they can; and they will, if we don't make a change in this election," Mrs Obama told her party in a blunt and emotional appeal that capped the first night of the Democrats' convention.

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NOTE ALTERNATE CROP. US President Barack Obama's wife Michelle greets Queen Elizabeth II during an audience at Buckingham Palace in London. (Photo by John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
US First Lady Michelle Obama meets pupils during a visit to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, north London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama And First Lady Michelle Obama Enjoy A Pint Of Guinness At Hayes Bar In His Ancestral Home Moneygall, Co Offaly During President Obama'S Visit To Ireland. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Harry laughs as U.S. first lady Michelle Obama catches a basketball during a game played by wounded warriors at Fort Belvoir, Virginia October 28, 2015. Prince Harry is at Fort Belvoir to meet soldiers and spread the word about the Invictus Games, which supports wounded warriors. Prince Harry spearheaded the Invictus Games, which was first held in London last September. The next Invictus Games is planned for May in Orlando, Florida. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and his wife Michelle (2nd R) pose for a photograph with Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace in London April 1, 2009. Obama said on Wednesday there was "enormous consensus" between the largest developed and emerging economies on plans to haul the world out of the deepest downturn since the 1930s, ahead of a G20 summit meeting. REUTERS/John Stillwell/Pool (BRITAIN BUSINESS POLITICS ROYALS)
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2nd L) and his wife Sarah (L) meet U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R) and first lady Michelle in Downing Street in London April 1, 2009. World leaders will have their work cut out at a G20 summit where Obama makes his first major international sortie, under perhaps more pressure than anyone to show that the country where the crisis began can lead the way out. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN POLITICS BUSINESS IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)
Queen Elizabeth II (L) and US President Barack Obama (2ndL) pose with US First Lady Michelle Obama (2ndR) and Prince Philip (R), Duke of Edinburgh, in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace ahead of a State Banquet on May 24, 2011 in London, England. The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle are in the UK for a two day State Visit at the invitation of HM Queen Elizabeth II. AFP PHOTO / POOL (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: HRH Prince Harry and first lady Michelle Obama meet at the White House during the first day of his visit to the United States on May 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. HRH will be undertaking engagements on behalf of charities with which the Prince is closely associated on behalf also of HM Government, with a central theme of supporting injured service personnel from the UK and US forces. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (R) poses with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha at Number 10 Downing Street in London June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Staples
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U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wait to receive Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha as they arrive for an official dinner in their honor at the White House in Washington, March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince Harry, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose as they attend a dinner at Kensington Palace on April 22, 2016 in London, England. The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Chris Radburn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The former first lady outlined dire stakes for the election ahead, declaring Mr Trump was "in over his head" and the "wrong president for our country".

Warning of possible voter suppression, she told Americans they must vote for Joe Biden "in numbers that cannot be ignored" if they want to preserve the "most basic requirements for a functioning society".

The scathing assessment was delivered in the last and longest speech in Democrats' experiment with a virtual convention in the coronavirus era, a spot Mrs Obama earned through her overwhelming popularity in her party.

She delivered her remarks in a casual setting, a living room, with a Biden campaign sign on the mantelpiece, and identified as much with the beleaguered voters of the US as the line-up of politicians that preceded her in the programme.

"You know I hate politics," she said, before diving into a speech that appealed to both her longtime fans in the Democratic coalition and a broad audience she has drawn since leaving the White House and becoming a bestselling author.

US Election

The president "has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head", she said.

"He cannot meet this moment."

"It is what it is," Mrs Obama said, echoing a remark Mr Trump made recently about the US death toll from the coronavirus.

Citing the pandemic, the flagging economy, the political unrest that has broken out nationwide over systemic racism and what she described as America's lack of leadership on the world stage, Mrs Obama said the nation is "underperforming not simply on matters of policy, but on matters of character".

US Election

In contrast, Mrs Obama said, Mr Biden is a "profoundly decent man" who "knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country".

She recounted how Mr Biden has prevailed through the personal tragedy of losing his first wife, baby daughter and adult son and said Mr Biden will "channel that same grit and passion to help us heal and guide us forward".

Republican Donald Trump succeeded President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2017 and has tried to undo many of Mr Obama's achievements on health care, the environment and foreign policy, among others.

On Monday, before the event, Mr Trump took a dig at the former first lady's coming speech, noting that her remarks were prerecorded and that his own speech at the Republican National Convention next week will be live.

"Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech?" he said at a rally in Wisconsin.

Mrs Obama, who leads an effort to help register people to vote, spoke about the importance of voting in the November 3 election, which will take place amid a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and infected more than five million in the US.

Wearing a necklace that spelled out the word Vote, she noted Mr Trump lost the popular vote but still won the White House, and "we've all been suffering the consequences".

Her remarks came as debate rages in Washington about US Postal Service changes that are delaying mail deliveries around the country, and amid legal battles in several states over access to mail-in ballots.

Mrs Obama issued a call to action to those who sat out the last election: Now is not the time to "withhold our votes in protest or play games", she said.

"We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we've got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to," she said.

Democratic presidential candidate former vice president Joe Biden (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In keeping with the virtual nature of the convention, Mrs Obama's remarks were recorded before Mr Biden's announcement that he had chosen California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Her speech was the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first introduced herself to the nation during her husband's groundbreaking campaign in 2008.

She spoke again in 2012 to urge voters to give him a second term.

Michelle Obama returned to the convention stage in 2016, backing former first lady Hillary Clinton over Mr Trump, who had spent years pushing the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the US and was ineligible for the presidency.

She spoke of the code her family lives by: "Our motto is, when they go low, we go high."

This time Mrs Obama put an asterisk on that 2016 rallying cry.

"Let's be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty," she said.

"Going high means taking the harder path."

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