Leave it to Michelle Obama to tear open Trump’s ass while remaining weirdly calm

At a Thursday afternoon campaign stop for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Manchester, New Hampshire, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered arguably her most powerful speech since she killed it at the Democratic national convention in July. In her speech, Obama took down Donald Trump without so much as saying his name, candidly pointing out the craziness of having a major presidential candidate boasting about sexually assaulting women, and that basic human decency is a small thing to ask for in president. But the most impressive aspect of her speech was its quiet fire. Hushed-but-deadly flames. 

Obama made sure we all knew as outraged as we all are about the Trump tapes, and of course, the fact that, while he’s apologized, Trump has yet to acknowledge that what he described is sexual assault and apologize for that. But she did so levelheadedly and eloquently. She allowed his words and deeds to speak for themselves, not even dignifying him by saying his name. Her strategy appeared to be that since any human with some semblance of decency could understand how fucked up all of this is, why bother screaming and flailing one’s hands over the whole ordeal when you could calmly, mildly *SMH* and focus on rallying voters to ensure this man stays away from the White House?

Obama’s aides told The New York Times that due to recent events, the first lady would be focusing on gender now more than ever in her campaigning for Clinton, and on Thursday, she nailed it on the head.

“I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” Obama said. She offered no context because at this point, would anyone in the world not know what she was referring to? And while outwardly completely calm, she added, “I can’t stop thinking about this — it has shaken me to my core.”

In a subtle yet hard-hitting response to all of the “locker room banter” excuses from Trump himself and his surrogates, Obama said, “This is not normal, this is not politics as usual.” Sure, after decades of Trump’s bullying, bigotry, and disturbing statements and behaviors, it’s natural to feel a bit used to this sort of thing. But Obama is right: having a major presidential candidate who has boasted about assaulting women and, today, dismisses that disturbing language as casual, everyday “locker room” talk  is anything but politics as usual.

To make her disgust with Trump’s casual dismissal of his language even more clear, she added outright: “I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women this way. To dismiss this as everyday locker-room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.” I mean, really, could you imagine President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden talking like that? I’m actually trying to and it’s impossible. (I can, however, imagine them talking about each other that way for reasons I don’t quite understand.)

Obama did not shy from pointing out the people most negatively impacted by the political rise of a man who literally regards them as objects: women. “No woman deserves to be treated this way — none of us deserves this kind of abuse,” she said, calmly.

And she developed this further in the most epic part of her whole speech, in which she relates Trump’s words to the casual, day-to-day lives of women around the nation. “It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body, or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long so you feel uncomfortable in your own skin,” Obama said. Basically, imagine all of that outright condoned and encouraged by electing President Trump. Terrifying, right?

Imagine an America where little boys are taught that this sort of bullshit is OK because, hey! our president, aka the traditional role model of boys and girls around the nation, said and did all of that. Imagine an America where girls think they have to just accept this treatment because their own president behaves that way.

“In our hearts, we all know that if we let Hillary’s opponent win this election, then we are sending a clear message to our kids that everything they’re seeing and hearing is perfectly O.K. — we are validating it, we are endorsing it,” Obama said. “We’re telling our sons that it’s O.K. to humiliate women; we’re telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated.”

To Obama, this can all be prevented if our collective shock and disgust at the prospect of is channeled in our political participation, because at the end of the day, the worst thing we could do is desensitized and disillusioned, as easy as it would be to do just that, at this point. “We cannot allow ourselves to be so disgusted that we just shut off the TV and walk away. And we can’t just sit around wringing our hands,” she declared. “We need you to roll up your sleeves, we need to get to work.”