In a recent interview with NPR, President Obama took the gloves off when asked about Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
President Obama said he felt that a combination of technological changes, demographic changes to the nation, and economic challenges lingering from the 2008 economic crisis have caused understandable anger, anxiety, and fear in the working class population.
However, Obama said that while the concerns of blue-collar Americans are justified, the Republican Party’s exploitation of those fears for political gain are not. Speaking specifically about how Donald Trump’s fiery campaign rhetoric takes advantage of working class fears, President Obama responded:
“Some of it justified, but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.”
Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination has been marked by his attacks on Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, new immigrant groups, Syrian refugees, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama himself. Trump’s flame-throwing campaign has resulted in high poll numbers from the Republican base, but also heightened emotions, with violence breaking out at several Trump rallys.
The war of words between President Obama and Donald Trump is nothing new. During the 2012 presidential election, Donald Trump fanned the extremist flames by repeatedly questioning the President about his birth certificate, and by repeating the right-wing conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in Hawaii.
At the 2012 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, the President brilliantly responded to Trump’s discredited attacks with stinging humor and sarcasm, turning Trump’s attempts to sow fear and discord into an opportunity for laughter. The video of this amazing speech is at the bottom of the article.
President Obama was also asked about the conspiracy theories and coded language used by the right to attack him since his emergence as the Democratic nominee is 2007. The President responded:
“If you are referring to specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I’m different, I’m Muslim, I’m disloyal to the country, etc. — which unfortunately is pretty far out there, and gets some traction in certain pockets of the Republican Party, and that have been articulated by some of their elected officials…In some ways, I may represent change that worries them.”
The President was quick to point out he only felt that way about the right wing’s attacks, and not about Americans who had legitimate differences with his administration over policy direction, stating:
“The fact of the matter is that in a big country like this, there is always going to be folks who are frustrated, don’t like the direction of the country, are concerned about the President.”
Featured image by Steve Jurvetson, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Sharealike license.