The Note: Obama leads Democrats in confronting Trump's words

As a former president, Obama is coming down on the side of words mattering.

August 6, 2019, 6:00 AM

The Take with Rick Klein

Words fueled Barack Obama's rise -- so much so that their import was the subject of an intense primary debate back in 2008, with Hillary Clinton dismissing "speeches versus solutions, talk versus action."

Now as a former president, Obama is again coming down on the side of words mattering.

"We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear or hatred or normalizes racist sentiments," Obama wrote Monday, in a rare political statement that didn't have to name his successor to make clear who it was referencing.

Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the State of the Union before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 12, 2016, in Washington, DC.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images, FILE

Obama lent his voice as Democrats on the campaign trail and in Congress applied new pressure on their Republican colleagues in the wake of the weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio. That pressure is coming on gun legislation, but also in confronting President Donald Trump's past words and what they represent.

Trump's first formal address after the shootings expressed a desire for bipartisanship and congressional action, though with few specifics. Democrats are arguing now that the damage from the current president's many other words has already been done.

"You use the office of the presidency to encourage and embolden white supremacy," former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted at Trump. "We won't truly speak with one voice against hatred until your voice is no longer in the White House."

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

There is growing evidence that the public's support for gun safety measures is translating into a changes in candidates, campaigns and electoral politics.

As evidenced this week, Democrats and some Republicans are no longer shying away from talking about policy proposals in this space. But more, by ABC News' estimate, a large majority of those candidates endorsed by gun safety reform organizations won in the 2018 midterms.

We tracked those federal candidates endorsed by the Giffords organization, founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence. Among candidates the group endorsed, 11 of 12 won Senate races, 100 of 131 won House races and 7 in 11 won gubernatorial candidates.

Shooting survivor and former Rep. Gabby Giffords speaks at a news conference about Rep. Mike Thompson's proposed gun background check legislation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Victories among the aforementioned obviously include politicians running with safe seats, but the numbers still show the expanded presence of money and energy on that side of the debate.

According to another advocacy organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, in the 43 federal races where an Everytown-endorsed candidate faced an NRA-endorsed candidate, 77% of the NRA-backed candidates lost.

"In total, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund spent $30 million this cycle on contributions, independent expenditures and voter motivation and mobilization," the group wrote following the midterms.

The groundswell of new, single-issue voters fighting for this cause has helped fuel the success of these candidates.

In 2020, expect a focus on senate races as gun control bills, even those passed on a bipartisan basis, have stalled in the Upper Chamber this Congress.

The TIP with Justin Gomez

Days after two mass shootings killed 31 people in less than 24 hours, Sen. Cory Booker will visit Mother Emanuel AME Church, the site of a mass shooting in 2015, and on Wednesday deliver a speech on gun violence and white nationalism.

Nine worshipers were gunned down on June 17 at the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer, a white man, was sentenced to death in 2017.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during the 2020 Public Service Forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at UNLV on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Booker said that after talking to the pastor and church community about whether it would be appropriate to give a speech "that combats hate" and "speaks to the antidote to a lot of the crisis," his offer to speak was welcomed.

The presidential candidate said he will talk directly to the country's need for "more courageous empathy and more activism," in changing laws that he believes are undermining the safety of Americans.

"This is a time that more real leaders should be stepping up to take responsibility, not just talking about what we're against not just condemning the violence, but really show people where we can go to all be more safe," Booker said to reporters after a town hall Monday in Charleston.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce, who explains why Washington remains gridlocked on the issue of gun control despite the latest mass shootings. Historian and author Kathleen Belew explains why we're seeing more alleged white supremacists turn their ideology into violence. Then ABC News Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis explains what investors are seeing after another day of big losses on the stock market.


  • President Donald Trump has no scheduled public events.
  • Vice President Pence delivers remarks to Alliance Defending Freedom at 11:35 a.m. in Arlington, Virginia. He then participates in the swearing in of the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador at 2:30 p.m. Later, he meets with the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom at 4:30 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend Biden for President fundraising events in Boise, Idaho, and Aspen, Colorado.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., participates in an education roundtable at 10:30 a.m. in Summerton, South Carolina. He then holds a conversation with local leaders in Manning. Later, he hosts meet-and-greet events at 1 p.m. in Manning and at 6:30 p.m. in Georgetown.
  • Former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., participates in a discussion with local farmers at 9 a.m. CDT in Rippey, Iowa. He then hosts meet-and-greet events at 11:15 a.m. in Carroll and at 1:15 p.m. in Fort Dodge. Later, he attends a meeting with Marshall County Democrats at 5:30 p.m. in Marshalltown.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., hosts a meet-and-greet event at 10 a.m. in Conway, South Carolina. He then participates in a walk-and-talk with Mayor Lovith Anderson at 3:05 p.m. in Lake City. Later, he holds a "Conversations with Cory" event at 6 p.m. in Florence.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hosts a town hall on affordable housing at noon PDT in Northridge, California. He then visits housing and homelessness service programs at 3:30 p.m. in Los Angeles. Later, he participates in a Bernie 2020 rally starting at 7 p.m. in Long Beach.
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hosts a meet-and-greet event with Iowa County Democrats at 12:30 p.m. CDT in Ladora, Iowa. Later, he hosts a meet-and-greet event with Scott County Democrats at 5:30 p.m. in Davenport.
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