Obama criticizes Trump in Illinois speech ‘How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad’

The 44th President addressed students, but also took shots at the divisive rhetoric that have caused harm to the national dialogue

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Former president Barack Obama returned to the campaign stage on Friday to address the political schism that has overtaken the country and criticize the elements that have been most divisive.

At an appearance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Obama had direct criticisms for President Trump and the Republican party in general going into the midterm elections. He explained to students that there are political hindrances to progress rising, much as they always have.

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“You happen to be coming of age during one of those moments,” Obama said. “It did not start with Donald Trump, he is a symptom, not the cause. He is just capitalizing on resentment that politicians have fanning for years. A fear, an anger that is rooted in our past but is also borne in our enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”

But he also had harsh words for the GOP, saying it failed to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election and that current politics have expanded the federal deficit.

Trump has boasted that lower unemployment and an expanding economy has all happened on his watch. But Obama noted his accomplishments including the capture and killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden and taking on the economic collapse of 2008.

“Let’s just remember when this economy started,” he said.

But the majority of his speech was devoted to combatting the political fearmongering and rhetoric that he has warned against in the past.

“We’re supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers,” Obama said. “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”

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Obama has spoken in his two previous major appearances this summer on political divisiveness, first in South Africa, where he indirectly criticized Trump for “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment”; and more recently at funeral services for Sen. John McCain, where he praised his former campaign opponent for going against “bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy.”

But during the U-C speech, his address lent itself more to the races around the country being decided in November. He warned against hyperpartisanship when it comes to making the decisions while voting in a democracy.

“I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government. It should not be Democratic or Republican,” he said. “It should not be partisan to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents.”

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With the diversity of political choices, largely among Democrats, Obama noted the political shift coming — arguably caused by his own presidency — but also said that simply casting a ballot, regardless of party affiliation is crucial.

“I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who we are, what it is that we stand for,” Obama said. “As a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, I’m here to deliver a simple message, which is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it.”

Watch Obama’s Full Speech Below: