President Obama accepted an ethics award from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL, Friday before delivering a speech to his audience of college students. A former resident of Chicago, Obama said it "was good to be home," before making a few local references that delighted the students.
Obama's main objective, however, was to offer voters a message for the midterms. He did so by suggesting he and Democrats deserved the credit for the improving jobs numbers. Republicans in Congress and the Trump team have been promoting the stats. The U.S. added 201,000 jobs and wage gains increased to 2.9 percent in August.
Yet, Obama was eager to rain on the Republicans' parade.
The GOP is promoting today's "economic miracle," Obama mocked. He asked voters to "remember when the recovery started." Today's economic numbers "were the same" in 2015 and 2016, he explained.
His administration "couldn’t reverse 40-year trends in eight years," he said, "especially" after Republicans took over in 2010 and blocked everything they tried to do.
"We pulled the economy out of crisis," Obama insisted.
The former president did take a few moments to credit Republican President Abraham Lincoln with ending slavery, and other Republicans for promoting civil rights. But, he used those examples to contrast with today's Republican Party.
Today's GOP, Obama said, have tamped down minority votes with voter ID laws, "embraced wild conspiracy theories" like those surrounding Benghazi, his birth certificate, they have "rejected science" on climate change, ignored deficits, took away Americans' health care and are "cozying up to Russia."
"None of this is conservative," Obama said. This is not what Lincoln had in mind, I think, when he formed the Republican Party. It's "radical."
Obama put it all in context with November's midterms, which he called the most important in his lifetime. He admitted he has said that before, but this time is different.
"What happened to the Republican Party?" Obama asked. "This is not normal."