Obama appears to rebuke Trump in Mandela lecture

Former President Obama on Tuesday appeared to offer a wide-ranging rebuke of President Trump, saying that “those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

Obama, delivering the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, warned that “strongman politics are ascending suddenly, whereby elections, some pretense of democracy, are maintained, the form of it.”

He referenced “strange and uncertain” times, saying that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines.”


One of his most direct criticisms toward Trump administration was over the withdrawal from the Paris climate deal, saying that he can’t “find common ground” with people who claim that climate change is a hoax, “when almost all the world’s scientists say it is [real].”

And he also spoke about leaders who “completely make stuff up” in another apparent jab at Trump, saying that facts need to be upheld in order for democracy to thrive.

“We see the utter loss of shame in political leaders when they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more,” Obama said, warning that the undermining of facts and reality could “be democracy’s undoing.”

While some of Obama’s comments appeared to be directed at Trump, the address in South Africa also touched upon the actions of autocratic leaders in countries across the world.

“Democracy depends on strong institutions,” Obama said, calling on people to reject election results where “the winner somehow gets 90 percent of the vote because all of the opposition is locked up or can’t get on TV.”

Obama ended the address with a call for action to young people.

“My message to you is simple,” he said. “Keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice.”

The former president delivered the pre-planned remarks one day after Trump drew mass backlash over his comments at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which he sided with Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Obama has kept a relatively low profile since leaving office last year, but has occasionally publicly criticized Trump and his policies, including the since-ended policy of separating immigrant families at the border and the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

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