These Are the Worst Things Barack Obama Has Said About Donald Trump
For a long time, Barack Obama stayed quiet about Donald Trump. In fact, The Atlantic notes that for the first year and a half after departing the Oval Office, Obama largely avoided talking about Trump or the Trump administration. But Obama recently decided to break his silence about his successor. And he has said some pretty harsh words about the 45th president.
Below, check out the worst things that Barack Obama has said about Donald Trump.
6. Our politics ‘can seem small and mean and petty’
In a historic eulogy delivered at John McCain’s funeral, Barack Obama contrasted McCain with Donald Trump. (Trump, The New York Times reports, was uninvited and unwelcome at the memorial service. He went golfing instead as the rest of Washington gathered for the ceremony.) Delivering his eulogy for McCain, Obama might have alluded to the fact that Trump continued his attacks on McCain even at the end of the senator’s life.
Obama said, “So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty.” He characterized today’s politics as “trafficking in bombast and insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage.” Obama added, “It’s a politics that pretends to be brave, but in fact is born of fear. John called us to be bigger than that. He called us to be better than that.” He clearly intended the message for Donald Trump.
5. ‘Strongman politics are ascendant’
Obama reportedly intended to refrain from criticizing his successor. But Trump’s foreign policy choices seem to have changed Obama’s mind. In July 2018, Obama seemed to respond to a joint news conference between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. At that point, Obama delivered what The Atlantic characterized as “a dire warning about the direction of global politics.” Obama — alluding to Trump’s choice align himself with “strongmen” from Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to China’s Xi Jinping to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to Russia’s Vladimir Putin — warned:
Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, where those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media, once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity, has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories.
4. ‘People just make stuff up’
Barack Obama also called out Donald Trump for telling lies. Trump’s statements give fact-checkers plenty of material to investigate every week. And Obama, like many other Americans, doesn’t like it. “People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up,” Obama said. “We see it in the growth of state-sponsored propaganda. We see it in internet fabrications.” And, he explained, “We see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment.”
Obama also seemed to address Trump more directly when he said, “We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie, and they just double down, and they lie some more. It used to be that if you caught them lying, they’d be like, ‘Oh, man’— now they just keep on lying.” Obama didn’t call out Trump by name. But the message was clear.
3. ‘This is not normal’
When he delivered a speech at the University of Illinois in September 2018, Barack Obama had more harsh words for Donald Trump. “This is not normal,” Obama said of the state of politics in the United States. (The New York Times notes that Obama was reviving a common #resistance slogan of early 2017.) “These are extraordinary times, and they are dangerous times.”
Obama also addressed the appearance of the “resistance” op-ed in The New York Times. And he urged listeners to vote. “The claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders — that is not a check,” Obama explained. “I’m being serious here. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They are not accountable.”
2. ‘How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?’
Barack Obama also pointed at Donald Trump for reshaping American politics. Obama said that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, “should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government.” He said that “It should not be Democratic or Republican — it should not be a partisan issue — to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal-justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents. (Or “to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up.”)
Similarly, Obama said, “It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We are supposed to stand up to bullies, not follow them.” Obama also still seemed incredulous that Donald Trump would not distance himself from the KKK or David Duke in 2016. He added, “We are supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we sure as heck [are] supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”
1. ‘The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference’
Critics have repeatedly characterized Donald Trump as indifferent: indifferent to the Constitution, indifferent to human rights, and even indifferent to facts and the truth. Barack Obama likely intended to appeal to Americans to vote when he said that “The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference.” But you could interpret the statement as another jab at Donald Trump, too.
“The threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists, or too much compromise from Democrats, or Russian hacking,” Obama explained. He also said, “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause.” That likely ruffled feathers in the Oval Office, given Trump’s tendency to take credit even for trends that began before his presidency.
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