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 wannabe politician” in a speech Friday night in Georgia, hailing the Republican Senate nominee as “one of the best running backs of all time,” but a man unequipped to become a United States senator.

Obama went toe-to-toe with Walker, calling him “a guy who carries a phony badge and says he’s in law enforcement like a kid playing cops and robbers,” has “character issues” and a “habit of not telling” the truth,” and someone who is too loyal to former President Donald Trump. Describing him as “means he doesn’t really care about you or your needs.”

The speech, the former Democratic president’s first full entry on the campaign trail in 2022, framed the midterms as an election of choice “between politicians willing to do whatever it takes to get power and leaders who share our values, see you and care about you. .”

“Every Republican politician seems to be obsessed with two things — getting the libs and getting Donald Trump’s endorsement,” Obama said. “That’s their agenda, it’s not long, it’s not complicated and, at least to me, it’s not very inspiring. They’re not really interested in solving problems. They’re interested in finding someone to make you angry and blame. You might not notice that they haven’t got their own answers.

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

He acknowledged the economic headwinds facing Democrats in November: “Listen, inflation is a real problem right now. It’s not just in America, it’s worldwide. It’s one of the legacies of the pandemic.

But he suggested that Republicans have not offered their own policies or plans: “Republicans talk about it a lot, but what is their answer? What are their economic policies?

Yet Obama’s most pointed commentary was aimed at Walker, Democratic Sen. Raphael called his race against Warnock, which is key to controlling an evenly divided Senate, a “study in contrasts.”

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

“There are a lot of young people here now, yes, that excites me. Some of you may not remember, but Obama said Herschel Walker was a football player. “In college, he was great. One of the best running backs of all time. But here’s the question: Does that make him the best person to represent you in the U.S. Senate? Does that equip him to weigh critical decisions about our economy and our foreign policy and our future?

Obama joked that just because Walker won the Heisman, that didn’t mean the public would let him fly the plane he was on or perform surgery on him without knowing if he deserved it.

“By the way, the opposite is also true. You may have liked me as president, but you don’t want me to start by the tail from the dogs,” he said. “I mean, can you imagine my slow, old bath getting hit by some 300 pound defensive tackle who runs a 4.6 40 (yard dash)? You have to get me off the field. No, I can’t. No, I can’t. I’m good at a lot of things but that’s not one of the things I’m good at.

But then Obama put the Republicans.

“There’s very little evidence that he’s taken any interest, or demonstrated any inclination to learn anything about public service or volunteer work or helping people,” Obama said, later arguing that Walker would appear to Trump. “Be a celebrity who wants to be a politician, and we’ve seen how that goes.”

Obama then raised “character issues” with Walker, an apparent reference to allegations that he paid two women to terminate their pregnancies.

Walker, who has previously advocated for a national ban on abortion with no exceptions, has denied the claims.

Obama said Walker was “in the habit of not telling the truth, in the habit of saying one thing and doing another, in the habit of having other rules for yourself and your key friends and everybody else.”

“That says a lot about what kind of leader you’re going to be,” he said. “And the candidate’s main qualification is that he’s loyal to Donald Trump, which means he doesn’t really think about you or your needs.”

Walker pushed back on Obama’s comments in a statement Saturday.

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

Walker said he will pray for Obama, saying he picked the “wrong horse” by endorsing Warnock.

“He needs some help because he’s come in with 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.

It wasn’t just Obama, a Democrat, who stepped up his rhetoric against Walker — Warnock also used the former president’s introduction speech to call out his Republican opponent by name.

Reflecting concerns among Democrats that the race is tight, Warnock urged Georgians to consider the consequences of the election, saying, “One vote is your voice, your voice is your human dignity.”

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

“Simply put, Herschel Walker wasn’t ready,” Warnock said. “He’s not ready. He’s not ready. Not only is he not ready, he’s not worthy.”

Warnock, who said his Republican opponent fights the truth, said, “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 and our children and our jobs and our future?”

Obama spent little time focusing on Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp, while Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams spoke during the event. Obama noted some of the voting laws passed by Kemp and Republicans in Georgia in the wake of the 2018 election, but it was much less direct.

Instead, the former president offered more broad ideas about the interims.

“I understand why people are worried. I understand why you might be worried. I understand why you might be tempted to tune out, watch football or watch ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” Obama said. “But I’m here to say that tuning out is not an option. Frustration. There is no option. The only way to make this economy fair is if we all fight. The only way to save democracy is for us to nurture and fight for it together.

He said: “The basic question you have to ask yourself right now is who will fight for you? Who will care about you? Who will see you? Who will believe in you? That is the choice in this election.”

Although Obama spent less time in the governor’s race, the arena was filled with chants of “Stacey! Stacey! Stacey!” As Abrams took the stage in front of the former president. He invoked the history of Obama’s own election in 2008 — and reelection in 2012 — and implored voters to believe Kemp, who has the edge in the race, could overtake him.

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

He said: “We have defied history time and time again and we will do it 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 arrived, long lines stretched around the Gateway Center Arena in College Park outside Atlanta. Aides with clipboards and laptop computers passed through the crowd, signing people up for a volunteer campaign to go door-to-door this weekend.

Above all, the event is intended to be an organizing tool, officials said.

“President Obama being here shows that we’re still fighting, we’re heading into 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.”

More than 1.3 million people had already voted in Georgia as of Friday, according to the secretary of state’s office, with one week left in the early voting period.

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

“VOTE EARLY, NOW UNTIL NOVEMBER 4TH,” screamed big blue signs in the arena. “Election Day: November 8.”

This story has been updated with additional feedback.

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