Obama Says Trump Tapping Anti-Immigrant Fear That Drove Brexit

Obama: Special Relationship With U.K. Despite Brexit
  • President calls Republican life-long member of ‘global elite’
  • Growing xenophobia in Europe has U.S. parallels, Obama says

President Barack Obama said Donald Trump is a lifetime member of the “global elite” who is trying to stir up in the U.S. the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment that drove Britain to vote itself out of the European Union.

“There’s a xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that’s flashing up not just in Great Britain but throughout Europe that has some parallels with what Mr. Trump has been trying to stir up here,” Obama said in an interview published Tuesday by NPR.

The president said that in his campaign for president, the real estate developer has sought to appeal to a sense of fear of newcomers and outsiders. He said the same strategy has been used by far-right leaders in Europe, including Marine Le Pen in France. Trump, he said, “embodies global elites” who are the subject of scorn in populist movements and has taken advantage of that position throughout his life.

“He’s hardly a legitimate spokesperson for a populist surge from working-class people on either side of the Atlantic,” Obama said.

Obama has vowed to campaign vigorously on behalf of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state in the president’s first term, and he has been stepping up the tempo of his criticism of Trump. He also threw his support behind U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to persuade Britons to reject withdrawal from the EU.

Trump is seeking to “tap into a fear that people may have about losing control and to offer some sort of big, nostalgic feelings about how we’ll make Britain great again, or we’ll make America great again,” Obama said. “The subtext for that is somehow that a bunch of foreigners and funny-looking people are coming in here and changing the basic character of the nation.”

Visiting Scotland the day after the Brexit vote, Trump compared the unexpected result with the upcoming U.S. election, saying Americans also wanted to take their country back.

“I really see a parallel between what is happening here and in the U.S.” Trump said, standing in front of his Turnberry golf course. In a statement after the vote, Trump said U.S. voters “will have the chance to re-declare their independence” in November.

During his yearlong campaign for the White House, Trump has proposed policies to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and impose higher tariffs on countries involved in global trade. He recently has softened some of his stands, including modifying the blanket ban on Muslims to focus on immigrants from countries with links to terrorists and promising his immigration policies would have “heart.”

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