- REUTERS/Jim Young
President Barack Obama said Donald Trump and Ted Cruz “have done us a favor” at a high-dollar Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising dinner in San Francisco on Friday night.
Obama was speaking about the Republican-controlled House and Senate when he first mentioned the two leading GOP presidential candidates.
“This notion that Donald Trump or Ted Cruz are outliers and that now suddenly the Republican establishment wants to … they’re embarrassed by them,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript. “Why? They’re saying the same things that these members of the Freedom Caucus in the House have been saying for years.”
“In fact, that’s where Trump got it,” he continued.
Obama said Trump was simply listening to positions of Republican members of Congress on immigration, national security, taxes, and programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
“He’d been paying attention, and he said, ‘You know what, I can deliver this message with more flair – with more panache,'” the president quipped.
Trump, the GOP frontrunner, and Cruz, a Texas senator nipping at his heels for the nomination, have done the Democrats a big favor because they both “stripped away any veneer” that the Republican Party is about “responsible governance,” Obama said. He added that those have been the “central tenets” of many Republicans in Congress during both his presidency and previous White House administrations.
He then called out Trump’s plan to build a massive border wall along the US-Mexico border and Cruz’s talk of increasing police surveillance on US neighborhoods with large Muslim populations, although he made a point of saying that a substantial number of Republicans are “embarrassed by it.”
The presence of Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket provides a special opportunity for Democrats running for House and Senate seats, he said.
If we are successful, not only can we advance the causes that so many of you have fought for and devoted your time and effort and energy and money to, not only do we have a chance to pass immigration reform and pass early-childhood education, and rebuild our infrastructure, and invest in science and research and development that has been at the heart of the dynamism in our economy – not only do we have a chance to do all those things, but I actually genuinely believe it gives an opportunity for Republicans to step back and reflect on where it is that they’re going.
He concluded his speech by noting the importance of the election and that he will still be making his stances known after he’s out of office.
“In 10 months, I will no longer be president of the United States,” he said. “But in 10 months, I will – contrary to Mr. Trump’s opinion – still be a citizen of the United States. And I’ve said this before, quoting Justice [Louis] Brandeis, the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen.”
Obama has increasingly made a point of calling out Trump and Cruz in recent weeks after spending the initial months of the primary season mostly quiet on the rise of the party’s frontrunners. On Tuesday, he called Trump’s newly released strategy to make Mexico pay for a giant wall along the border a “half-baked” plan.
“Good luck with that,” Obama said sarcastically of the plan to block remittance payments from the US to Mexico. He later called Cruz’s stance on immigration “just as draconian” in the news conference.
Earlier this month, Obama critiqued Trump’s foreign policy in another press conference, this one coming at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit, which was attended by various world leaders in Washington, DC. Those remarks came shortly after the Manhattan billionaire told The New York Times that he would be open to a nuclear-capable Japan and South Korea in exchange for an ease in security commitments for the US.
Those comments “tell us that the person who made the statements doesn’t know much about foreign policy or nuclear policy or the Korean Peninsula or the world, generally,” Obama said during that news conference.