Michelle Obama to call Joe Biden 'profoundly decent man' in DNC speech

By Guardian staff and agencies

Michelle Obama will call Joe Biden a “profoundly decent man” who will “tell the truth and trust science” in her speech on the opening night of the Democratic convention, seeking to draw a sharp contrast between Biden and Donald Trump.

“He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country,” the former first lady said in an advance excerpt of her speech later on Monday. “He will make smart plans and manage a good team, and he will govern as someone who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.”

It’s part of what longtime adviser Valerie Jarrett says is set to be a speech emphasizing Biden’s competency and character in contrast to the Republican incumbent.

“This election is very personal for her,” Jarrett told the Associated Press. “She’s going to take this opportunity to speak about Vice President Biden in two ways: competency, which she had a chance to observe first-hand while he served as her husband’s vice-president, but also his profoundly decent character.”

Republican Donald Trump succeeded Democrat Barack Obama in 2017 and promptly set out to undo many of Obama’s achievements on health care, the environment and foreign policy, among others. Trump also routinely criticizes Obama’s job performance.

Biden’s sense of empathy will also be a focus of Michelle Obama’s speech, which will serve as a character witness.

Tragedy has followed Biden, from the deaths of his first wife and baby daughter after he was elected to the Senate in 1972, to the death of his son Beau from brain cancer in 2015.

Michelle Obama, who leads an effort to help register people to vote, will also speak about the importance of voting in the 3 November election, which will take place amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and infected more than 5 million in the US.

Her remarks will come as Democrats in Washington have railed against recent cuts to the US Postal Service, which is headed by a Trump ally and Republican donor. The changes are delaying mail deliveries around the country, raising concerns about whether mail-in ballots will be sent out and returned on time ahead of the election.

Trump, who lags Biden in some national and state polls, has denounced efforts by some states to expand voting-by-mail options and spread misinformation to undermine the practice, which is seeing huge demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“She knows the lengths that people are going through, around our country, to suppress the vote and it’s why she has poured so much of her energy into getting folks registered and educated about voting,” Jarrett said.

In keeping with the virtual nature of the convention because of the coronavirus, Michelle Obama’s remarks were recorded before Biden’s announcement last Tuesday that he had chosen California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

But the former first lady wrote lengthy posts on her Facebook and Instagram accounts praising Harris, a Black woman born to Jamaican and Indian parents, after she joined the Democratic ticket.

Nearly four years after leaving the White House, Michelle Obama remains hugely popular with the Democratic base, and among Black women in particular, as well as with some of those outside the party. Her speech on the convention’s opening night will be tantamount to the endorsement of Biden that some supporters had hoped she would make during the early primaries, when his candidacy was struggling.

Monday’s speech will be the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first introduced herself to the nation during her husband’s groundbreaking campaign. She spoke again in 2012 to urge voters to give him a second term.

Michelle Obama returned to the convention stage in 2016, backing former first lady Hillary Clinton over Trump, who had spent years pushing the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the US and was ineligible for the presidency.

She spoke of the code her family lives by: “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

A key difference between those speeches and Monday night’s address is that Michelle Obama is better known now than she was in 2008, Jarrett said. Millions of people in America and around the world have read her bestselling memoir, Becoming.

“I think her hope is they will trust her, and that this isn’t about politics,” Jarrett said. “This is about the future of our country.”

Associated Press contributed to this report