President Barack Obama blames years of knee-jerk GOP hostility toward him for fueling Donald Trump’s rise, arguing Thursday that Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. Trump’s GOP rivals headed into their final debate before next week’s key primaries wondering if it was already too late to stop him from claiming their party’s nomination.
Relishing the opportunity to ridicule what he called the GOP “circus,” Obama sought to tie Trump to his primary election opponents by claiming they see eye to eye on the issues — even if the flamboyant billionaire puts on a more provocative act. The president said that on immigration and other issues, Trump’s not so different from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Obama’s diagnosis of the GOP’s ills came as Trump’s rivals appeared increasingly worried that he had all but locked up the nomination, and that if anyone can stop him, it’s Cruz, a polarizing conservative firebrand. Even Cruz’s pickup of an endorsement from Utah Sen. Mike Lee — notably the first from any of his Senate colleagues — underscored just how much he’s disdained within the Republican establishment.
Obama, standing alongside Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, mused it was “novel” that some Republicans have pointed the finger at him for the deteriorating tone of American politics.
Rather, he said, the Republican establishment had created “an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive.” GOP leaders have done that, he said, by telling the party for seven years that “everything I do is to be opposed, that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal, that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous, that there is a ‘them’ out there and an ‘us,’ and ‘them’ are the folks who are causing whatever problems you’re experiencing.’”