In a handful of campaign appearances on behalf of Hillary Clinton this fall, First Lady Michelle Obama has made some off-hand comments about Donald Trump without ever actually mentioning his name. She spoke of “those who questioned and continue to question” her husband’s citizenship. She remarked that “someone who’s roaming around at 3 a.m. tweeting should not have their fingers on the nuclear codes.”
But she has never delivered a speech like the one she gave today in New Hampshire.
Obama began by talking about her “week of profound contrast.” On the one hand, she spent Tuesday celebrating the International Day of the Girl and her Let Girls Learn initiative at the White House, speaking with “some of the most amazing young women you will ever meet.”
“That was Tuesday,” she said. “Now here I am, out on the campaign trail in an election where we have consistently been hurting hateful language about women. Language that has been painful for so many of us, not just as women, but as parents trying to protect our children and raise them to be caring respectful adults, who think our nation's leader should meet basic standards of human decency.”
Again, the first lady did not mention Trump by name, but spoke of a candidate for president who, “over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning.”
“And last week we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women,” she said of the 2005 tape in which Trump does just that. “And I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women. And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted.”
Addressing Trump’s non-apology directly, Obama said, “This was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn't ‘locker room banter.’ This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior.”
The first lady went on to stress how “personally” she has felt Trump’s words and actions hit her over these past several days.
“It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts,” she said as women in the audience murmured in agreement. “It's like that sick sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business. some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares just a little too long, you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. It's that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them and they've said no but he didn't listen.”
She also clarified to those still defending Trump in the media, that this type of behavior is not “normal.” It’s not “politics as usual.”
“This is disgraceful,” Obama continued. “It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to. Democrat, Republican, Independent, no woman deserves to be treated this way. No one deserves this kind of abuse.”
Obama ended the Trump portion of her speech by telling the story of a six-year-old boy who told his mother that he thinks Clinton will be president because her opponent called someone a “piggy.”
“You cannot be president if you call someone a piggy,” Obama quoted him saying.
“Even a six-year-old knows better,” she said. “A six-year-old knows this is not how adults behave, it's not how decent human beings behave and this is certainly not how someone who wants to be president of the United States behaves.”
“Because let's be very clear, strong men, men who are truly role models, don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful,” the first lady continued, before finally pivoting to Clinton. “People who are truly powerful bring others together. That is what we need in our next president. We need someone who is a uniting force in this country. We need someone who will heal the wounds that divide us. Someone who truly cares about us and our children. Someone with strength and compassion to lead this country forward.”
“I’m here today because I believe with all of my heart that Hillary Clinton will be that president,” she said, getting an enormous ovation from the crowd.