President Obama was in California Tuesday doing things actual presidents do, like attending a summit with Southeast Asian leaders. During a news conference at the talks, Obama was asked by a reporter what he thought about the prospects of some of the aspiring presidents in the GOP field—specifically, Donald Trump. Obama was initially hesitant—umm-ing and ahh-ing—his way into the answer. Once he got going, Obama ticked off his (expected) concerns over the candidates’ increasingly belligerent anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, and climate change denying stances. Then he pivoted and addressed Trump’s candidacy head-on: “I continue to believe that Mr. Trump will not be president, Obama said. “And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people.”
Obama went on to give as frank an assessment of a candidate that you will get from a sitting president along with a steely reminder of the responsibility that accompanies the office of the presidency. Here’s an excerpt of Obama’s answer:
I continue to believe that Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. And I think they recognize 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. 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. And sometimes 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. And it requires being able to work with leaders around the world in a way that reflects the importance of the office. And it gives people 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. And you’re not just going to play for the crowd back home, because they have their own crowds back home. And you’re trying to solve problems. And so during primaries people vent and they express themselves and if it seems like entertainment, and oftentimes it’s reported, just like entertainment but as you get closer, the reality has a way of intruding. And these are the folks I have faith in.
Trump responded to Obama’s remarks during a campaign stop in Beaufort, South Carolina. “For him to say that actually is a great compliment if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “He has done such a lousy job as president. You look at our budgets. You look at our spending. We can’t beat ISIS. Obamacare is terrible. We’re going to terminate it.”