Obama blasts Trump: presidency 'not a reality show'

2016-05-07 09:17
President Barack Obama. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

President Barack Obama. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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Washington – President Barack Obama warned on Friday the White House race was not a "reality show" and called for Donald Trump's record to be held to close scrutiny as the billionaire seeks to rally divided Republicans behind him.

With Trump seizing the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee this week after his rivals exited the race, debate has turned to whether he will be able to rally party faithful behind him between now and November.

Asked about Trump's candidacy and the resulting chaos on the Republican side, Obama offered some of his most pointed comments yet about the celebrity real estate mogul and long-time star of TV show "The Apprentice," whose political rise has stunned the world.

"We are in serious times and this is a really serious job," Obama told reporters at the White House. "This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show."

"Every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny."

Trump has raised howls of protest even within his party with his harsh, free-wheeling speech and proposals ranging from banning Muslims from entering the United States to building a wall on the southern border to keep out Mexican migrants to slashing US funding for NATO so allies have to pay more.

"He has a long record that needs to be examined, and I think it's important for us to take seriously the statements he's made in the past," Obama said.

Secretary of State John Kerry piled on, telling the diverse and international graduating class at Northeastern University that they were "Donald Trump's worst nightmare."

"We will never come out on top if we accept advice from soundbite salesmen and carnival barkers who pretend the most powerful country on Earth can remain great by looking inward and hiding behind walls," Kerry said.

Soul searching

The words of warning came a day after the nation's top elected Republican official, House Speaker Paul Ryan, refused to support the presumptive nominee and said Trump has "some work to do" to win over sceptics within his camp.

In a possible olive branch, Ryan invited Trump to meet with him and fellow party leaders in the House next Thursday to discuss "the kind of Republican principles and ideas that can win the support of the American people this November."

But Ryan's warning to Trump threw the Grand Old Party deeper into soul searching over how to mount a viable campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

Several party elders – including the last two Republican presidents, George W Bush and George HW Bush – have refused outright to endorse Trump.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a former 2016 presidential candidate, became the latest establishment Republican to opt out, announcing on Friday that he would not vote for him or Clinton.

Former candidate Jeb Bush also said he will not back either nominee, noting on Facebook that Trump has not demonstrated the right "temperament or strength of character" to be president.

Bush and Graham both stressed that they will focus on the key goal of helping Republicans maintain their majorities in the House and Senate.

Trump 'radioactive'

Trump said he was taken aback by Ryan's rebuke.

"And it's fine. He can do whatever he wants to do. But I was surprised by it," Trump told Fox News.

Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, has stressed the burden was on Trump to begin the healing process within his fractured party.

But Trump's clumsy effort to reach out to one alienated group of voters triggered an immediate backlash after he tweeted a photograph of himself eating a taco bowl, adding "I love Hispanics!"

"Honestly, he's trying," Republican National Committee chairperson Reince Priebus, who has urged conservatives to back Trump, said on Friday.

"I honestly think he understands that building and unifying and growing the party is the only way we're going to win."

Democrats, buoyed by polls which show Clinton leading Trump head-to-head, seized on the Ryan clash to highlight the GOP turmoil.

"Trump has gone radioactive," Democratic National Committee spokesperson Mark Paustenbach said.

Clinton, who leads a resilient Bernie Sanders in their Democratic nomination battle but has yet to seal the deal, has already pivoted to Trump, calling him a "loose cannon" and saying Americans cannot risk electing him commander in chief.

Her campaign and its supporters have also begun reaching out to Republicans disillusioned with Trump, according to The New York Times.

Some conservatives, including Senator Ben Sasse, have made waves by arguing that a third candidate should challenge Trump and Clinton.

Speaking on the Republicans' Trump conundrum, Obama said its voters will ultimately have to "make a decision as to whether this is the guy who speaks for them and represents their values."

"I'll leave it up to the Republicans to figure out how they square their circle."

Read more on:    donald trump  |  barack obama  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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