Obama in Georgia lambasts Walker as ‘a celebrity that wants to be a politician’



CNN

Former President Barack Obama described Herschel Walker as a “celebrity who wants to be a politician” during a speech Friday night in Georgia and praised the Republican Senate candidate as “one of the best runners ever” but someone who is not equipped to become a United States senator .

Obama went point-by-point against Walker, calling him “someone who carries around a fake badge and says he’s on the police force like a kid playing cops and robbers,” attacking his “character issues” and his “a habit of not telling. the truth,” and describing him as someone who will be so loyal to former President Donald Trump, “that means he won’t really think about you or your needs.”

The speech, the former Democratic president’s first full foray into the 2022 campaign, framed the midterm elections as a choice election “between politicians who seem willing to do anything to get power and leaders who share our values , who see you and care about you.”

“Almost every Republican politician seems to be obsessed with two things — owning limbs and getting Donald Trump’s approval,” Obama said. “This is their plan, it’s not long, it’s not complicated and, at least for me, it’s not very inspiring. They are not interested in real problem solving. All they care about is pissing you off and finding someone to blame. Because that way you might not notice that they don’t have their answers.”

Obama was greeted with thunderous applause at the Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Georgia. At several points he uttered one of his old campaign classics: “Don’t whistle, vote!”

Acknowledging the economic hurdles facing Democrats in November, he said, “Look, inflation is a real problem right now. Not just in America, but all over the world. This is one of the legacies of the pandemic.”

But he indicated that Republicans have not offered their policies or plans, saying: “Republicans talk a lot about this, but what is their response? What is their economic policy?”

But Obama’s sharpest comment was aimed at Walker, calling his race against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is key for control of the evenly divided Senate, a “study in contrasts.”

The commentary began with a compliment from Walker, the legendary University of Georgia football player who won the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

“Now there are many young people here, yes, that makes me happy. Some of you may not remember, but Herschel Walker was one heck of a football player,” Obama said. “He was incredible in college. One of the greatest runners of all time. But here’s the question: Does that make him the best person to represent you in the US Senate? Does that make him willing to weigh in on critical decisions about our economy, our foreign policy, and our future?”

Obama then joked that just because Walker won the Heisman, that didn’t mean the audience would let him fly the plane they were on or operate on them without knowing if he was qualified.

“By the way, the reverse is also true. You may have liked me as president, but you wouldn’t want me to start with the dogs,” he said. “I mean, can you imagine my slow, old scrawny butt getting hit by some 300-pound quarterback running a 4.6 40 (yard)? He should have dragged me off the field. No, I can’t. No, I can’t. I’m good at a lot of things, but that wouldn’t be one of the things I’m good at.’

But then Obama decided to be a Republican.

“There is very little evidence that he was in any way interested, that he made an effort to learn anything, or that he showed any inclination to do public service or volunteer or help people in any way,” Obama said, and later nodded to Trump, arguing that Walker seems to be “a celebrity who wants to be a politician, and we’ve seen how that goes.”

Then Obama raised Walker’s “character issue,” an apparent reference to allegations that he paid two women to terminate their pregnancies.

Walker, who previously advocated for a national ban on abortion without exceptions, denied the claims.

Obama said Walker “has a habit of not telling the truth, he has a habit of saying one thing and doing another, he has a habit of having certain rules for you and your important friends and different rules for everyone else.”

“It says something about the kind of leader you will be,” he added. “And if a candidate’s main qualification is to be loyal to Donald Trump, that means he’s not really going to think about you or your needs.”

In a statement Saturday, Walker dismissed Obama’s comments.

“President Obama was here last night. He said I’m famous. He got that wrong, didn’t he? I’m not famous, I’m a warrior for God,” the Republican nominee said.

Walker also said he would pray for Obama, who he said picked the “wrong horse” in endorsing Warnock.

“He needs help because he got the wrong horse. Senator Warnock is the wrong horse. You know he can’t do the job and it’s time for him to go,” Walker said.

Obama wasn’t the only Democrat to step up the rhetoric against Walker — Warnock also used his speech introducing the former president to call out his Republican opponent by name.

Reflecting Democrats’ concerns that the race is close, Warnock urged Georgians to consider the consequences of the election, saying: “The vote is your vote, your vote is your human dignity.”

In his remarks, which drew thunderous applause from the crowd, Warnock directly confronted his rival – echoing Obama’s criticism that Walker was unprepared.

“Put simply, Herschel Walker is not ready,” Warnock said. “He’s not ready. He’s not ready. Not only is he not ready, he is out of shape.”

Warnock, who said his Republican opponent was struggling with the truth, later added: “If we can’t trust him to tell the truth about his life, how can we trust him to protect our lives and our families, our children and our services. and our future?”

Obama spent less time focusing on Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, despite Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaking during the event. Obama pointed to some of the election laws that Kemp and Georgia Republicans passed after the 2018 election, but was much less direct.

Instead, the former president offered broader thoughts on interim terms.

“I understand why people are concerned. I understand why you might be concerned. “I understand why it might be tempting to just switch off, watch football or ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” Obama said. “But I’m here to tell you that exclusion is not an option. Despair is not an option. The only way to make this economy fairer is if we all fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we nurture it together and fight for it.”

He added: “The fundamental question we should be asking now is who is going to fight for you? who cares about you? Who sees you? Who believes in me? That is the choice in this election.”

Although Obama devoted less time to the governor’s race, the arena echoed with chants of “Stacey! Stacey! Stacey!” as Abrams took the stage in front of the former president. She referenced Obama’s own election history in 2008 — and re-election in 2012 — and implored voters to believe she could overtake Kemp, who polls show has the lead in the match.

“We defied conventional wisdom to deliver generational change,” Abrams said, “and we’re going to do it again, Georgia, we’re going to do it again.”

She added: “Time and time again we have defied history and we will do so on November 8 because that is who we are. We are one Georgia and we believe in ourselves and we believe in tomorrow.”

Hours before Obama’s arrival, long lines stretched around the Gateway Center Arena in College Park, just outside Atlanta. Aides with clipboards and laptops made their way through the crowd, signing up people for shifts in a volunteer drive to go door-to-door this weekend.

Officials said the event was primarily an organizational tool.

“Having President Obama here shows that we’re still fighting as we get closer to Election Day,” Rep. Nikema Williams, who is also chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, told CNN. “It’s about bringing people together and exciting voters who are still looking for inspiration in this election cycle.”

According to the Secretary of State’s office, more than 1.3 million people had already voted in Georgia by Friday, with one week left until early voting.

Inside the arena, a DJ warmed up the crowd of about 6,000, while Democrats waved signs for Warnock, Abrams and other state and local candidates on the ballot.

“Vote early, now through November 4th,” screamed the big blue signs in the arena. “Election Day: November 8.”

This story has been updated with additional reactions.

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