President Barack Obama, while answering questions during a White House joint press conference on March 10, 2016, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, discussed his perspective on the Republican Party. The occasion was the first time a Canadian Prime minister has officially visited the White House in 20 years, reported the BBC. President Obama was asked about the fracturing and increasingly hostile nature of the Republican Party, as well as Donald Trump.
Washington D.C., correspondent Margaret Brennan, of CBS News, asked, “Some of your critics have pointed to the incredibly polarized political climate under your administration as contributing to the rise of someone as provocative as Donald Trump, do you feel some responsibility for that, or even for the protectionist rhetoric from the Democratic candidates?” She also asked whether he felt constrained due to the political climate by having to pick a new Supreme Court justice in a short amount of time.
President Obama responded that he did not feel constrained. Obama simply wants the entire team of Supreme Court justices to be able to do their jobs as a unit, made stronger by being whole. His decision would not be dictated because of the fracas from the political climate and the Republican Party wanting to wait until a new president obtained the office and could make a choice.
Obama then tackled the first part of her question, saying that he has been blamed by the GOP for a number of things, but being blamed for the way the Republican primaries are going is “novel.” Obama stated that, as he said in his final State of the Union speech, one of his regrets was the way polarization and the nasty tone of politics in the nation had only grown, rather than died off over the last seven and half years. Obama said that he also did a lot of soul-searching and wondering whether there was anything further he could do to bring the country together, breaching the divide between Republican rhetoric and bitter anger that has only seemed to grow.
However, Obama explained, it bears saying that for the past seven years, the GOP political elite, as well as the media, talk radio, news outlets, have been feeding those in the Republican Party that everything the President does is to be opposed, and agreeing with him is the ultimate betrayal. Those in the Republican Party have also maintained that absolutist positions on issues are politically gratifying. President Obama went on to say that the Republican Party had fed into the idea that there is an “us” versus “them” mentality, and the “them” is the cause of the country’s problems.
Obama added that he did not think he had contributed to any of that. He said he never prompted any questions about his nationality or loyalty to the country. What the public is seeing within the Republican Party, the in-fighting and the fractures, to some degree, is the result of their fighting against the president, marinating and creating an environment where someone as provocative as Trump can thrive. President Obama remarked that Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio all had similar positions on immigration, for example, they were not really that different from each other. Trump is just more provocative in his statements.
President Obama continued, saying that Trump is simply repeating the Republican Party line rhetoric of the past seven years. Obama was more than happy to own the responsibility that he could take on, as president, to continue to make efforts that contribute to the bipartisan willingness to get along and work together. Obama added that he believes that common ground exists because you see it every day, when people work together, play together, and raise their kids together. He refused to validate the idea that the Republican Party’s current problems are his fault.
He stated there are thoughtful conservatives, who were legitimately worried by the direction of the Republican Party, and he would pose, they think introspectively about politics they have engaged in, what happened within the GOP to produce what has been seen lately. President Obama stated, he wanted a stronger Republican Party, an effective one that would provide balance. He said the country needed a responsible, effective Republican party, which could lead and govern whether they were in the majority or not. He wants a stronger Republican Party that could be taken seriously, and be effective enough to challenge the blind spots in the Democratic Party.
President Obama said he thought it would be useful to have a stronger Republican Party, for example, when discussing the trade deals. Obama pointed out people cannot just put walls up around the economy. While the workers should be served, complete global trade shut down will not solve the bigger problems. There is some insight to be found in the ideas of old economists and conservatives, but that perspective would be lost if it was paired with GOP standbys, such as providing tax breaks to the wealthy, destroying unions, and lack of interest in helping workers. It certainly would not be heard if it was mixed with anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been spewed.
President Obama concluded by saying he thought the Democrats were doing fine, with the vigorous debate between two people who care about the United States and have served the country for a long time. He stated his biggest role would be to bring everyone together so they can focus on winning the general election in November.
By Juanita Lewis
Edited by Cathy Milne & Jeanette Smith
CNN: Obama Welcomes Canada’s P.M. to the White House
NPR: WATCH: Obama Says Trump Is A Product Of The GOP, Not His Presidency
The Los Angeles Times: Obama: Don’t blame me for the Republican Party’s fracture
Image Courtesy of Justin Sloan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License