Obama Questions Trump's Gravitas, Previewing Election Attacks

Obama on Trump as Nominee: This Is Not a Reality Show
  • `This is not a reality show,' president says of campaign
  • Biden says Democrats must take threat from Trump seriously

Previewing lines of attack that voters can expect to hear more of this year, President Barack Obama said Donald Trump’s long record deserves scrutiny and suggested the presumptive Republican presidential nominee hasn’t offered serious proposals on the economy or national security.

“We are in serious times and this is a really serious job,” Obama told reporters on Friday at the White House. “This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.”

Obama said voters must scrutinize the positions of presidential candidates and decide whether they are plausible, risk war, might upend international relationships or damage the global financial system. They were his first public remarks since Trump cleared the Republican field of challengers earlier this week, and provided an insight into how Democrats were likely to grapple with Trump’s unorthodox, populist campaign. 

Obama’s approval rating is at 51 percent, according to a CNN/ORC International Poll, and the White House has signaled he will actively campaign on behalf of the Democratic candidate. He hasn’t endorsed either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and declined to do so again on Friday.

Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in on Trump on Friday, saying in an interview with Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA it would be a "mistake" not to take him seriously. He said the presumptive Republican nominee had the ability “to bring significant people around him on domestic and foreign policy and to do the policy pieces where people think that this guy could actually be president.”

Separately on Friday, the Democratic National Committee began taunting Trump as "Dangerous Donald" in a series of press releases and selling "America Is Already Great" hats patterned on the Republican front-runner’s trademark accessory. Clinton asked supporters to donate to a "Stop Trump Fund."

While Democrats are sizing up how to run a general election campaign against Trump, Republican leaders are wrestling with whether to embrace his campaign and risk association with his more polarizing proposals, such as walling off the Mexican border, prohibiting Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. and reversing course on international trade agreements.

Trump And Ryan

Several prominent Republicans, including the party’s last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have distanced themselves from Trump. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was Romney’s running mate in 2012, ignited a spat with Trump on Thursday after the Wisconsin Republican said he was withholding his support for Trump’s candidacy for now. Trump quickly retorted that he didn’t yet support Ryan’s agenda. Ryan on Friday invited Trump to a meeting next week with members of the House leadership.

And Trump labeled Republican Senator Lindsey Graham an "embarrassment" after the South Carolina lawmaker said he would not vote in November.

Obama, answering questions at the White House after delivering a statement on the economy, didn’t make specific reference to any of the positions Trump, a billionaire and former reality television star, has taken in the Republican primary campaign. But he said the public must “take seriously the statements he’s made in the past.”

“Republican voters are going to have to make a decision as to whether this is the guy who speaks for them and represents their values," he said. “Republican women voters are going to have to decide, ‘is that the guy I feel comfortable with in representing me and what I care about?’”

Obama declined to remark on a Trump tweet on Thursday in which he said "Happy #CincoDeMayo" and "I love Hispanics!" accompanied by a picture of the candidate eating a taco bowl at his desk.

"I have no thoughts on Mr. Trump’s tweets," Obama said. "And I think that will be true for, I think, for the next six months. So if you could just file that one."

No Endorsement

There was no immediate reaction to the president’s remarks from Trump or his campaign staff.

Obama said he won’t make an endorsement in the Democratic primary until after voting has concluded. He said he expects both candidates to work to unify the Democratic Party for the general election and he emphasized that they both agree broadly on the major issues affecting the nation.

“I’m going to let the voters cast their ballots and not try to meddle in the few primaries that are remaining,” he said. “We’ll know soon enough.”

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