Obama calls Republican anti-Muslim rhetoric troubling

Published February 18, 2016
US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference after the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California February 16, 2016.—Reuters
US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference after the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California February 16, 2016.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has said that anti-Muslim rhetoric of leading Republican presidential candidates was troubling for the world.

Speaking to the media at the US-Asean leaders summit in California on Tuesday evening, Mr Obama also had a message for Republican front-runner Donald Trump: he was unqualified for the job he aspired for.

“I continue to believe Mr Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people,” he said. “I think they recognise that

being president is a serious job. It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show. It’s not promotion. It’s not marketing.”

So far, Mr Trump is the only presidential candidate in US history who hosted a reality show.

While explaining why Mr Trump was not fit for the White House, Mr Obama also gave a brief description of the president’s job.

“It’s hard. And a lot of people count on us getting it right. And it’s not a matter of pandering and doing whatever will get you in the news on a given day,” he said.

“It requires you making hard decisions even when people don’t like it, and doing things that are unpopular, and standing up for people who are vulnerable but don’t have some powerful political constituency.”

Mr Obama reminded Mr Trump that being the US president also “requires being able to work with leaders around the world in a way that reflects the importance of the office.”

He noted that a US president had to work with world leaders in a way that gives them “confidence that you know the facts, and you know their names, and you know where they are on a map, and you know something about their history”.

Mr Obama, who completes his second and final four-year term in 2016, said that world leaders also need an assurance that “you’re not just going to play to the crowd back home because they have their own crowds back home”.

He, however, noted that it’s not just Mr Trump whose rhetoric was troubling for the world.

“I think foreign observers are troubled by some of the rhetoric that’s been taking place in these Republican primaries and Republican debates,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s restricted, by the way, to Mr Trump. I find it interesting that everybody is focused on Trump, primarily just because he says in more interesting ways what the other candidates are saying, as well.”

President Obama also underlined the anti-Muslim sentiments often expressed at Republican election rallies and noted that this too was not restricted to Mr Trump.

“He may up the ante in anti-Muslim sentiment, but if you look at what other Republican candidates have said, that’s pretty troubling, too,” he said.

Mr Obama hoped that such rhetoric would fade away as the election campaign moved on.

“During primaries, people vent and they express themselves. And it seems like entertainment, and often times it’s reported just like entertainment. But as you get closer, reality has a way of intruding,” he said.

Mr Trump, however, rejected President Obama’s criticism, saying that his opposition would only increase his support.

“He has done such a lousy job as president,” Mr Trump said at a campaign event in South Carolina. “He’s set us back so far, that for him to say that actually is a great compliment.”

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2016

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