Obama-Trump feud gets personal

Obama-Trump feud gets personal
© Getty

President Obama on Tuesday delivered an unusual rebuke of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE, letting his anger show during a 12-minute diatribe against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his call to ban Muslim travel to the United States. 

Obama has taken Trump to task repeatedly this year, beginning with his State of the Union address, to build the case that the businessman is unfit for the White House.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Tuesday’s criticism was more cutting than most, arriving just over 48 hours after the deadliest mass shooting in American history — and just one day after Trump blamed immigration for the assault and said the president might sympathize with terrorists.

“We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America,” Obama said. “We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests that entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop?” 

The president scoffed at Trump’s demand that he use the phrase “radical Islam” when discussing terrorism, calling it a “political distraction” that serves no purpose.

“There has not been a moment in my seven and a half years as president where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label ‘radical Islam,’ ” Obama said, becoming animated. “Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really use that phrase, we're going to turn this whole thing around.’ Not once.”

Glaring at the cameras, Obama said military and law enforcement officials “know full well who the enemy is.”

“So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appears on cable news shows,” he said, waving his left hand as if to dismiss Trump. 

“That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people,” he said.

The president could barely hide his contempt for Trump, saying that singling out Muslims would result in a recruiting frenzy for extremist groups while undercutting American values of religious freedom and tolerance. 

He challenged Republicans in Congress, who haven’t been eager to defend Trump’s Muslim ban, to stand up to their party’s nominee.

The candidate’s proposals, Obama said, are “doing the terrorists' work for them.”

Trump fired back late Tuesday, saying Obama is directing displaced anger at him in the wake of the mass shooting.

“I watched President Obama today and he was more angry at me than the shooter,” Trump said during a camping rally in Greensboro, N.C.

The president’s tone was a marked departure from a day earlier, when White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed Trump’s innuendo as “small” and the president didn’t address it at all.

Earnest said Obama personally revised his planned remarks for Tuesday in the aftermath of Trump’s speech.

“I know the president spent some time working on his remarks both last night and again this morning,” Earnest said. “So it's certainly something the president's been thinking about.”

The president spoke after a briefing at the Treasury Department with Vice President Biden and his top national security officials, where he received an update on the investigation into the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando. 

The shooting spree by Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a 911 call during the assault, has provoked some of Trump’s harshest criticism of Obama and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWill the Horowitz report split the baby? Gabbard commemorates John Lennon's passing by singing 'Imagine' Bannon: Clinton waiting to enter 2020 race and 'save the Democratic Party from Michael Bloomberg' MORE, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Trump tossed aside the usual political playbook the day after the shooting. Rather than adopting a somber tone, as Clinton did during her speech, he went on the attack, accusing Obama and Clinton of putting “political correctness above your safety and before all else.”

He said the country must tighten the immigration laws that allowed the shooter’s parents to come to the United States from Afghanistan. Mateen, 29, was a U.S. citizen born in New York who self-radicalized, according to U.S. officials.

But he reserved his most scathing criticism for Obama, both in the speech and in comments beforehand, suggesting the president’s sympathy for Muslims might prevent him from fighting Islamic extremism.

Trump stood by his comments in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday, writing that Obama "claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people."

Speaking in Pittsburgh around the same time as Obama, Clinton forcefully came to the president's defense.

“Yesterday morning, just one day after the massacre, he went on TV and suggested that President Obama is on the side of the terrorists,” Clinton said.

“Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for president of the United States." 

Echoing Obama, Clinton also bashed Trump for being "fixated on the words 'radical Islam,’ ” suggesting he believes “there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us.” 

White House aides said they weren’t aware of any coordination with the Clinton campaign, but the two Democrats seemed to be speaking from the same script.  

Republicans on Capitol Hill, on the other hand, were singing a different tune than Trump.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.) reiterated his belief that a Muslim ban is not “in our country’s interest.”

“I do not think it is reflective of our principles,” he said during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters. “Not just as a party but as a country.”

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.), who has been the subject of speculation as a possible Trump running mate, said he was “discouraged” by the candidate’s reaction to the Orlando shooting.

“It wasn’t the kind of response I would expect when 50 people have perished,” he told reporters. “I think I’ve offered words of public encouragement in important times and continue to be discouraged by the results.”

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham expects Horowitz investigation to show evidence was manipulated, withheld Trump's exceptionalism: No president has so disrespected our exceptional institutions Trump, GOP shift focus from alleged surveillance abuse to Durham Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.), a former Trump primary opponent, told CNN that Trump’s suggestion that Obama is sympathetic to Islamic extremists is “beyond out of line,” even as he called the president’s anti-ISIS strategy a “complete failure.”

Trump is no stranger to such controversy, having coasted through such incoming fire during his improbable run to the GOP presidential nomination. He first proposed the Muslim ban after last year's attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., and saw his poll numbers surge. 

Whether the strategy will work in the general election remains to be seen. 

A new Bloomberg Politics poll released Tuesday found Clinton leading Trump nationally 49 percent to 37 percent. The media coverage of Trump, meanwhile, appears to be growing more critical. 

The New York Times wrote in a Tuesday A1 story that Trump’s proposals “pay little heed to American traditions of pluralism,” adding that his rhetoric “more closely resembled a European nationalist’s than a mainstream Republican’s.”

“While Trump was fiery and combative, Clinton was cool and collected,” The Washington Post wrote of the candidates' dueling speeches on Monday.