Speaking at the Ohio Democrats’ annual dinner in Columbus on Thursday night, President Barack Obama blasted Republicans for nurturing the sort of extreme thinking that led to Donald Trump’s political rise.
While Obama aimed a few of his swipes at Trump, saying he was “caught on tape saying things that no decent person would even think, much less say, much less brag about, much less act on,” he directed most of his criticism toward GOP officials who have only recently disavowed their party’s presidential nominee. Frequently, he referred indirectly to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is running for reelection and holds a significant lead over former governor Ted Strickland (D).
“The problem is not that all Republicans think the way this guy does. The problem is that they’ve been riding this tiger for a long time,” the president said, referring to those who questioned whether he was born in the United States, those who called him “the antichrist” and other conspiracy theories. “They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience.”
“People like Ted’s opponent, they just stood by while this happened,” Obama said, referring to Portman, adding that as in “so many” other situations, “Trump didn’t build the building himself, he just slapped his name on it.”
“The problem is this is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over again,” the president said, to applause. “This is the nominee you get.”
While Portman withdrew his endorsement for Trump after a 2005 videotape surfaced last week in which Trump made crude remarks about sexually assaulting women, Obama argued that he has more respect for those who actually supported the New York real estate mogul “than the people who knew better and stood silently by because it was politically expedient.”
At times his remarks appeared aimed at moderate Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, suggesting that elected Republican officials had lost their moral compass.
“You’re not even consistent anymore. You claim the mantle of the party of family values and this is the guy you nominate? And stand by and endorse and campaign with? Until finally at the 11th hour you withdraw your nomination? You don’t get credit for that,” he said. “You’re the party that’s tough on foreign policy and opposes Russia, then you nominate Trump, whose role model is Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB? I’m sorry, what happened?”
Rather than delivering an extended attack on Trump, Obama quipped that members of the audience should look up the video of Michelle Obama’s speech in New Hampshire on Thursday, in which she lambasted the GOP nominee for failing to respect women. The first lady said the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Trump have “shaken me to the core.”
“She was pretty good,” the president said.