President Barack Obama has some advice for Donald Trump: Man up.
Obama has been building on this latest bit of psy-ops over the past week, with a combination of infantilization and emasculation that contrasts with the “broad shouldered” imagery that Gov. Mike Pence likes to use to describe the top of the Republican ticket.
It’s the classier version of mocking Trump for having small hands, instead impugning his “toughness,” as Obama did on Tuesday when asked about Trump’s latest accusations that the election will be rigged.
“I’d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes,” Obama said. “It doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you’d want out of a president.”
He added, “If you start whining before the game is even over, if whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.”
Obama first suggested Trump was being a cry-baby and pre-emptively sore loser in August, as Trump started loudly suggesting that the general election would be rigged against him.
“All of us at some points in our lives have played sports or maybe just played in a schoolyard or a sandbox. And sometimes folks, if they lose, they start complaining that they got cheated,” Obama said, answering reporters’ questions just before his summer vacation.
But only recently have Trump’s warnings about a rigged election become, for Obama, further evidence that the Republican nominee is unfit for office. Trump has repeatedly pinned the failings of the Obama administration — whether it’s fighting ISIS, standing up to Russia or negotiating trade deals — to Obama’s weakness. But now Obama is arguing that Trump is the weak one, more eager to deflect responsibility than buckle down and fix problems – in this case, his sagging electoral prospects.
At a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton on Friday, Obama used it as a point of contrast between her and Trump.
“No matter how tough the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she doesn’t point fingers or whine,” Obama said. “She doesn’t talk about how everything is rigged. She just works harder and gets the job done.”
He continued, “I notice her opponent – he seems to be in the middle of the game, making excuses all the time for why he might be losing. And it’s always interesting to me to see folks who talk tough but then don’t act tough. Because if you’re tough, you don’t make excuses. You don’t start complaining about the refs before the game is even done. You just play the game, right?”
Yet even Republicans who don’t love Trump thought Obama was giving himself just a bit too much credit. Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s storied strategist, has said he’s not ready to vote for Trump. Yet based on his experience working with Obama the senator, Rove said, the current president is “one of the most thin-skinned people in Washington and he whines a lot.”
Rove added, appearing on Fox News Channel on Tuesday, “It was completely inappropriate at a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Italy that he allowed himself to look like he was appearing at a Democratic campaign rally as a stump speaker.”
Obama’s been even harder on Trump at campaign rallies, using his own family-man example as a contrast with Trump’s “locker room banter” version of manhood.
“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 last week in North Carolina, in reference to a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women without consequence.
Since it leaked, Trump has argued that the 11-year-old tapes aren’t relevant, because his time on the campaign trail has changed his perspective. But Obama argued that if Trump was pleading immaturity, then the condition is incurable.
“I mean, I’m 55. It’s hard for me to change. I know at 70 it’s gonna be harder,” he said.
Back in August, Obama acknowledged one circumstance in which Trump might be able to make a case that the election has been rigged – after it’s over, of course – if polls show him up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and he still loses.
“That doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment,” Obama added.
And it’s still not. However, Obama’s evidently re-thought that approach, now unequivocally dismissing any possibility. And Trump has evolved, too. At his own rally on Tuesday, he made a new assessment of the surveys.
“Even though we’re doing pretty good in the polls,” Trump said in Colorado, “I don’t believe the polls anymore.”
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