Using his commencement speech at Rutgers University as a get-out-the-vote effort for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, President Barack Obama derided Donald Trump and Republicans more broadly as endorsing irrationality and ignorance. Chastised young citizens – who mostly support left-wing causes associated with Democrats – for insufficiently exercising their votes, Obama made the case for political experience as amounting to relevant expertise necessary to hold elected office.
Trump and Republicans were committing the sin of celebrating “know-nothingness” as boldness, said Obama.
“Facts, evidence, reason, logic, and understanding of science… these are good things. These are qualities you want in people making policy,” said Obama, casting Trump and Republicans as not valuing rationality. “That might seem obvious. We traditionally have valued those things, but if you were listening to today’s political debate you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from,” said Obama. “In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or tellin’ it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”
Repeating his ongoing calls for greater globalization, Obama mocked calls for physical security in the form of a barrier along the Mexican/American border.
“The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that,” said Obama, receiving applause. Adding that weak governments diminish healthcare capacity and contribute to the rise of disease threats such as the Zika virus, he called for great American engagement abroad in the form of foreign aid and international development.
“The point is, to help ourselves we gotta help others. Not pull up the drawbridge and try to keep the world out,” said Obama.
Trump’s proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the country was also critiqued.
“Isolating or disparaging Muslims, suggesting that they should be treated differently when it comes to entering this country, that’s not just a betrayal of our values. It would alienate the very communities at home and abroad that are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism,” said Obama, implicitly acknowledging the overlap between Muslims and Islamic terrorism, yet still using the nebulous term “violent extremism” in a paradoxical attempt to divorce the people from the phenomenon.
Calling for a preservation of the status quo of immigration, Obama claimed that America’s genesis came about by attracting “strivers from every corner of the globe.”
Making the case for political experience as relevant and necessary expertise for professional politicians, Obama indirectly advocated on behalf of Clinton while admonishing against Trump. Given conventional expectations of expertise in the fields of medicine and aviation, said Obama, it was consistent to expect requisite expertise in the realm of politics for those seeking elected office.
“If we get sick, we actually wanna make sure that doctors’ve gone to medical school, they know what they’re talking about. If we get on a plane, we say we really want the pilot to be able to pilot the place. And yet in our public lives, we suddenly think, ‘I don’t want somebody who’s done it before,’” said Obama, warning that opposition to politicians with political experience amounted to a rejection of “facts” and “reason,” and would perpetuate American “decline.”
Earlier this month, Obama similarly used his commencement speech at Howard University as a get-out-the-vote effort for Clinton and the broader Democratic Party.
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