Their joint appearance was to be the event of the 2016 White House race, so far. And it was, except President Barack Obama, the campaigner-in-chief, stole the show.
As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, spoke, Obama, perched on a backless stool behind her, acted out some parts of her speech, specially those about him.
He eagerly joined her supporters in chanting “Hillary, Hillary”, and even led them a few times. And when it was his turn at the microphone, the president was a quintessential surrogate.
“I’m ready to pass the baton,” Obama, who had his sleeves rolled up, said to applause. “And I know that Hillary Clinton is going to take it. And I know she can run that race.”
The president and his one-time secretary of state appeared jointly for the first time this election season, just hours after Clinton received a mixed reprieve on her private email use.
The FBI said earlier on Tuesday that though Clinton, as secretary of state, and her aides had been “extremely careless” using a private server, it was not recommending charges against her.
Neither Obama nor Clinton referred to the FBI announcement — and it was noted — and plunged headlong into the race, in which they both have as much at stake as the other.
Clinton needs Obama’s testimony as a “character witness” to change a continuing perception of her as dishonest and untrustworthy and her high un-favorability ratings.
Obama was right on cue at the joint appearance, in North Carolina, blaming it on politics. He started by recalling how popular she was when she had just left office.
“She was a great secretary of state,” he said. “Before the whole political machinery got moving. You remember that? It wasn’t that long ago. It's funny how that happens.”
And he tore into presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who he constantly referred to as the “other guy” or just the “guy”, saying on one instance that tweeting is easy, but sitting behind the Oval Office desk isn’t.
Obama needs Clinton to win to ensure his legacy — healthcare reforms and other measures — endures and is not rolled back by a Republican, as they have so often threatened to do.
Clinton has completely embraced his presidency after initial attempts to distance herself, and critics often remark she is running for a third term for Obama.
Trump and Saddam
Donald Trump has often spoken with some admiration for dictators and strong leaders. It’s now the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who, he thinks, was not all so bad.
“He was a bad guy -- really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday.
“They didn't read them the rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” he added. He had advocated the use of torture before.
Trump received a quick rebuke from Speaker Paul Ryan, the senior-most elected Republican, who told Fox: “He (Saddam) was one of the 20th century’s most evil people.”