Former President Barack Obama campaigns for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman during an appearance in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons)
PITTSBURGH — Former President Barack Obama was in vintage form during a rally here on Saturday, as he urged a crowd of hundreds to cast their votes for Lt. Governor John Fetterman, the Democrat running for U.S. Senate.
“This election requires every single one of us to do our part, it’s that important,” Obama said.
Fetterman, who is still recovering from a stroke he suffered in May, joked that he was in the unenviable position of appearing just ahead of Obama.
Fetterman seemed to be speaking more easily than he has in recent public appearances. He noted that his Republican opponent, celebrity physician Mehmet Oz, was scheduled to speak at an event in Pennsylvania on Saturday with former President Donald Trump.
“Dr. Oz is going to be standing with Donald Trump on the stage, and I’m going to be standing with a president that is 100 percent sedition free,” Fetterman said. “I’m running to serve Pennsylvania, he’s running to use Pennsylvania. He’s spent $37 million to try to buy the seat, but Pennsylvania’s seat is not for sale.”
Fetterman directly addressed his stroke and the impact it’s had on his campaign.
“I got knocked down but I got back up,” he said, ignoring a heckler who was quickly drowned out by chants of “Fetterman, Fetterman,” from the audience.
“I’m going to fight for everyone in Pennsylvania who’s ever gotten knocked down.”
Obama poked Oz, saying the television star has “answers, they’re just the wrong ones,”.
“Want to lose weight? Take raspberry ketones. Got leg cramps? Try lavender soap. Want to prevent dementia? Palm oil! A miracle solution,” he said, referring to Oz’s practice of promoting unvetted treatments on his long-running TV show.
“Listen, it’s easy to joke about Dr. Oz and all these quack remedies he’s pushed on people. But it matters. It says something about his character: if someone is willing to peddle snake oil to make a buck, he’s probably willing to sell snake oil to get elected,” Obama said.
And, he added, “you deserve somebody who’s actually from Pennsylvania.” Fetterman has hammered at Oz for the latter’s New Jersey resident status.
But Obama saved his most withering barbs for the Republican party as a whole. He lamented the “erosion of civility” in the current political climate.
“You’ve got politicians who work not to bring people together but to stir up division and make us angry and afraid of one another just so they can take power,” with social media helping to amplify it, Obama said.
“One basic question you should be asking yourself right now: ‘who will fight for you?’” Obama asked. He said Republicans want to gut social security and medicare and give rich people tax cuts.
“It should come as no surprise that Republicans want to cut taxes for the wealthy because that’s their solution for everything,” Obama said. “If there was an asteroid headed toward earth, they’d all be in a room saying, ‘you know what we need? Tax cuts for the rich.’”
He lambasted Republicans for their continued support for Trump.
“Just about every GOP politician seems obsessed with two things: they want to ‘own the libs,’ let’s get the libs, and let’s get Donald Trump’s approval,” he said. “They’re not interested in solving problems. What they want is to make you angry and find someone to blame.”
Obama spoke for more than 30 minutes to the crowd gathered near the University of Pittsburgh in the city’s Oakland neighborhood — his first return visit to Pittsburgh since 2016.
Also speaking before the audience on an unseasonably warm November day were a slew of local Democrats, including Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and two, area state lawmakers – Sen. Lindsey M. Williams and state Rep Summer Lee, both Democrats of Allegheny County. Lee, who is running for the open 12th Congressional District seat, was joined by another congressional hopeful, Chris Deluzio, who’s running in the neighboring 17th Congressional District.
Obama pulled out a few old chestnuts from past campaigns to close out the rally, including, when the crowd booed at the mention of Oz: “Don’t boo, vote. They can’t hear you boo, but they’ll hear you vote.”
And, Obama said, Trump has said he needs Oz in the Senate if he runs for the presidency in 2024. The former president could announce a 2024 bid as soon as Nov. 14, according to published reports.
“He needs Dr. Oz in the Senate in case there is a close election again, so he can put his thumb on the scale,” Obama said. “That’s not supposed to be what this election is about.”
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