President Barack Obama lit into Donald Trump again on Tuesday, this time attacking the Republican presidential nominee for slandering a Muslim family whose son was killed while fighting in Iraq.
He added that Trump lacks "basic knowledge" about "critical issues," and that he believes he doesn’t have "the judgment, the temperament, or the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world."
"I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president," Obama said, while speaking next to the Singaporean prime minister at a press conference. "I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it. The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, means that he’s woefully unprepared to do this job."
Most of the coverage of Obama’s remarks focused on his hit on Trump. But his comments were primarily an appeal to top Republican leadership, which has tried to criticize Trump’s most offensive statements while also still supporting him over Hillary Clinton in the election.
That position, the president argued, is becoming increasingly impossible to hold.
"There has to come a point at which you say, ‘This is not somebody I support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party,’" Obama said. "The fact that this has not happened makes these denunciations ring hollow."
Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained yesterday just why it’s so hard for congressional Republicans to bring themselves to endorse Clinton, even while they condemn what Trump is doing.
But Obama has now made clear that he doesn’t have much sympathy for that argument. Here’s what he went on to say:
I think the question they [top Republicans] have to ask themselves is, "If they repeatedly have to say in very strong terms that what he says is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?" What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer? This isn’t a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily and weekly. There has to come a point at which you say, "This is not somebody I support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party." The fact that this has not happened makes these denunciations ring hollow.
I don’t doubt their sincerity; I don’t doubt that they were outraged by the statements Mr. Trump and his supporters made about the Khan family. But there has to be a point where you say, "Someone who makes that kinds of statements doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, or the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world." Because a lot of people depend on the White House getting stuff right.
This is different than just having policy disagreements. I recognize [the Republicans] profoundly disagree with myself and Hillary Clinton on tax policy or certain elements of foreign policy. But there have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed with, but I didn’t have a doubt they could function as president. I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought they couldn’t do the job. ... [If they had won,] I would have said to all Americans, "This is our president, and I know they’re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense and will observe basic decency, and have enough knowledge about economic and foreign policy and constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work. And we’ll compete four years from now to win an election."
But that’s not the situation here. And that’s not my opinion — that’s the opinion of many prominent Republicans. There has to come a point at which you say, "Enough." The alternative is that the entire Republican Party effectively endorses and validates the positions being articulated by Mr. Trump.