President Barack Obama relished the GOP civil war that has broken out over Donald Trump, openly mocking Republicans who are refusing to rescind their endorsements even as they condemn the nominee for talking cavalierly about sexual assault.
“The fact that now you’ve got people saying: ‘Well, we strongly disapprove. We really disagree. We find those comments disgusting, but we’re still endorsing him. We still think he should be president.’ That doesn’t make sense to me,” Obama said Tuesday during a Hillary Clinton rally in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“You can’t have it both ways here,” he continued. “You can’t repeatedly denounce what is said by someone and then say, ‘But I’m still gonna endorse them to be the most powerful person on the planet and to put them in charge.’”
On a day when Trump lashed out House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican establishment more broadly for abandoning him with just four weeks until Election Day, Obama joined in, blasting Republicans for their obstruction throughout his administration and pinning the monster they created on them.
“I just wanna make that point because there are still a number of Republican elected officials, some of whom I know and I’m sure are embarrassed and say, ‘Wow, that was a really terrible thing he said,’ but they can’t bring themselves to say, ‘I can’t endorse this guy,’” Obama told the energetic crowd of more than 7,000 people. “And by the way, why did it take so long for some of them to finally do walk away?”
Obama hammered Republicans who have continued to put politics first, even in the wake of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” videotape leaked last Friday to The Washington Post in which Trump boasts in incredibly crude terms about sexually assaulting women with impunity because of his celebrity.
“I mean, we saw this coming. He’s been saying really bad stuff for a while now,” Obama said. “What did you think? He was just gonna transform himself? I mean, I’m 55. It’s hard for me to change. I know at 70 it’s gonna be harder.”
The president slammed Trump on myriad issues, including taxes, his threat to jail Clinton (“no trial, no indictment, no lawyers”) and the rhetoric from his supporters — specifically conservative radio host Alex Jones, who suggested that Obama and Clinton are demons.
“There’s only one candidate in this race who understands that democracy in a big, diverse country doesn’t work if you constantly demonize each other — and I mean that literally, by the way,” he said. “I was reading the other day. There’s a guy on the radio who apparently — Trump’s on his show frequently. He said me and Hillary are demons. Said we smell like sulfur. Ain’t that something? Now, I mean, come on, people. Democracy does not work if you just say stuff like that or — and apparently there are people who believe that stuff, and they’re listening to it constantly.”
Obama argued that you don’t have to be a husband or father to find Trump’s demeaning rhetoric toward women wrong and stressed how different Trump is compared to the Republican nominees who challenged him for the White House in 2008 and 2012, with whom he disagreed with politically but didn’t doubt their fitness to be commander in chief and represent the country on the world stage.
“That is not the case with the current Republican nominee. He doesn’t have the temperament or the judgment or the knowledge or apparently the desire to obtain the knowledge or the basic honesty that a president needs to have,” Obama said. “And that was true even before we heard about his attitude toward women.”
Even on the trail, Obama said, the real estate mogul has been candid with some of his offensive views about minorities, Muslims, people who are disabled and a Gold Star family.
“You don’t have to be a husband or a father to hear what we heard just a few days ago and say, ‘That’s not right.’ You just have to be a decent human being to say that’s not right,” Obama said. “And if it makes you mad, if you say, ‘That’s not somebody I want representing the United States of America,’ you can do something about it, North Carolina.”
It was Alpha Obama, offering an alternative masculinity to Trump’s “locker room banter.” The president swaggered onto the stage, fresh off a town hall focused on “race, sports and achievement” set to air on ESPN later Tuesday. He’d met with participants in the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a program Obama started, in part, to help connect young black men with mentors and role models. The White House, in recent days, has delighted in the president’s near-record approval ratings, pointing to his squeaky-clean personal life and status as a role model, in contrast to Trump.
Obama even offered a family-man version of the Republican candidate’s braggadocio: “That’s why I got all this gray hair. I’ve been busy. But Michelle said I still look good,” Obama said, as the crowd screamed and swooned. “Now my daughters, on the other hand … They said: ‘Well, you’re dad cute. You’re like cute for a dad,’ you know, which is — that’s the best you’re gonna do.”
And even as he faced hecklers, Obama responded with breezy, good-natured condescension.
“Here is the deal,” he said. “Try to get your own rally. If you cannot get your own rally then don’t come to somebody else’s.”
But mostly, he directed his condescension at Trump.
“I also don’t know a lot of casino operators who managed to lose almost a billion dollars in a year,” Obama said. “They say the house always wins. I don’t know what happened.
The chief executive of the federal government also appeared to endorse the hypothesis that Trump has not paid federal income taxes.
“I don’t know folks who used that failure then to avoid paying federal incomes taxes for our troops and our vets and our roads and our schools,” Obama said. “You don’t brag about not paying your taxes. You don’t say that makes you smart. No, that means you are not a responsible citizen.”
And he painted a clear contrast between the two candidates vying to succeed him, noting: “Tweeting doesn’t qualify you. Soundbites don’t qualify you. Insults certainly don’t qualify you” for the Oval Office.
“One candidate has a foundation that’s saved countless lives around the world. The other took money that people gave to his charity to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself,” Obama said. “I’m not kidding. One candidate traveled more countries than any secretary of state before her. The other is Donald Trump. So when he asks you what do you have to lose, the answer is you’ve got everything to lose.”
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