White House

Donald Trump is Getting Under President Obama’s Skin

Ahead of second GOP debate, the president responded to the candidate’s attacks.

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the Business Roundtable at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 16, 2015.
Add to Briefcase
Rebecca Nelson
Sept. 16, 2015, 1:06 p.m.

Don­ald Trump is fi­nally get­ting to Pres­id­ent Obama.

On Wed­nes­day, the pres­id­ent de­fen­ded Amer­ica’s eco­nom­ic stand­ing in the world. And, ahead of the second GOP primary de­bate Wed­nes­day night—and without ever say­ing his name—he  un­veiled a hearty de­fense against the busi­ness mogul and GOP front-run­ner.

“In the echo cham­ber that is pres­id­en­tial polit­ics, everything is dark and everything is ter­rible,” he lamen­ted at the Busi­ness Roundtable headquar­ters in Wash­ing­ton. Pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates, “don’t seem to of­fer many solu­tions for the dis­asters that they per­ceive, but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.”

He con­tin­ued: “I’m here to say there’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly pat­ri­ot­ic or Amer­ic­an about talk­ing down Amer­ica, es­pe­cially when we stand as one of the few sources of eco­nom­ic strength in the world.”

Obama also had a re­sponse to Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial slo­gan, Make Amer­ica Great Again: “Amer­ica is great right now. Amer­ica is win­ning right now.”

Trump’s cel­eb­ra­tion of his wealth, along with his simple mes­sage on the eco­nomy, has res­on­ated with the Re­pub­lic­an base, rock­et­ing him to the top of the primary field; he’s lead­ing the rest of the GOP by double-di­gits. His tough talk on China has helped, too: He talks about the coun­try so much—how they’re beat­ing the United States, and how he’d beat them—that a video of him say­ing “China” 234 times went vir­al last month.

With this in mind, and ahead of Chinese Pres­id­ent Xi Jin­ping’s vis­it to the White House next week, Obama ramped up his rhet­or­ic against the coun­try. He an­nounced that the United States is “pre­par­ing a num­ber of meas­ures to in­dic­ate to the Chinese that we are not just mildly up­set” over cy­ber­se­cur­ity con­cerns, in­clud­ing the massive data hack at the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment. Though the ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clined to blame the Chinese for the hack, the coun­try is widely be­lieved to be at fault.

Still, the newly sharpened rhet­or­ic came with a not-so-veiled Trump caveat.

The United States and China can have a dia­logue “as long as we don’t re­sort to the kind of loose talk and name-call­ing I no­tice some of our pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates en­gage in,” Obama said. “It tends not to be con­struct­ive.”

And then, warn­ing that he was go­ing to go on a “rant,” he spouted off.

“This whole no­tion that some­how we’re get­ting out-com­peted, out-dealt, we’re los­ing. … Nobody out­side the united states un­der­stands what we’re talk­ing about,” Obama said. Though the United States has is­sues, “over­all, our cards are so much bet­ter than every­body else.”

Press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est told re­port­ers Tues­day that Obama wouldn’t be watch­ing the GOP de­bate “be­cause he feels like he’s got bet­ter things to do.” From the sounds of it, though, Obama’s bruised ego may up­grade it to must-see TV.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.