While speaking at a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol, President Obama strongly denounced the violence and rhetoric being used by Donald Trump in his campaign to win the White House.
The President said, “We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities, at Americans who don’t look like us or pray like us or vote like we do. We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech. However offensive it may be, we live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold. In response to those attempts, we’ve seen actual violence. And we’ve heard silence from too many of our leaders.”
The President warned that the kind of politics Trump is engaging in could damage an entire generation, ““We should not have to explain to them this darker side of politics, we should not be afraid to take them to a political rally or let them watch political debates. We should be teaching them that this democracy is a vibrant and precious thing, and it’s going to be theirs someday, and we want them to elevate it.”
After turning to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and saying that they disagree on policy, but he knows that Ryan is a great father and a great husband who wants what’s best for America. Obama said that he didn’t have a bad word to say about Ryan personally. Later, the President added, “I reject any effort to spread fear or encourage violence or shut people down when they’re trying to speak or turn Americans against one another. I think as a citizen who will still be leading this office, I will not support somebody who practices that kind of politics. Any leader worthy of our support will remind us that even in a country as big as diverse and inclusive as ours what we have in common is far bigger and more important than any of our differences.”
President Obama was correct. What Trump is doing isn’t about free speech or any of the other excuses that his campaign has offered to justify the candidate’s behavior. Trump is damaging the American brand at home and abroad. He is harming our identity and democratic values. People on all sides of the political spectrum are coming together to denounce the language and tactics of Donald Trump.
Obama’s words will not make a difference to the Republican voters who have already decided to support Trump. The voters who support Trump have been conditioned to double down on their support for anything that this president opposes.
President Obama’s remarks today were meant to unify the country against the kind of campaigning that Trump is engaging in.
The anti-Trump unity may never show up in the Republican primaries, but it will be heard loud and clear at the ballot box in November.