'It Has to Stop': Obama Condemns 'Vulgar and Divisive' Campaign Rhetoric

By Susan Jones | March 16, 2016 | 7:25am EDT
President Barack Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. shake hands during a lunch celebrating St. Patrick's Day for Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - Speaking at an early St. Patrick's Day celebration on Tuesday, President Obama called the event "a break from politics as usual."

Then he asked the Irish prime minister's indulgence "for one second as I comment on our domestic politics."

Obama condemned the "vulgar and divisive rhetoric" he's hearing from the campaign trail; he said it is not an "accurate reflection" of American values or the "American brand"; and speaking on a critical primary day, he said he will not support anyone engaging in such "corrosive" politics.

"It has to stop," the president declared.

"We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities, at Americans who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do," the president said, without naming Donald Trump directly.

"We've seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech. However offensive it may be, we live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold. In response to those attempts, we've seen actual violence. And we've heard silence from too many of our leaders."

Obama warned against accepting this as the new normal: "And it's worth asking ourselves what each of us may have done to contribute to this kind of vicious atmosphere in our politics. I suspect that all of us can recall some intemperate words that we regret. Certainly I can.

"And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it, for it is cycle that is not an accurate reflection of America. And it has to stop. And I say that, not because it's a matter of political correctness, it's about the way the corrosive behavior can undermine our democracy and our society and even our economy."

No laws, just 'norms'

"In America, there aren't laws that say that we have to be nice to each other or courteaous or treat each other with respect. But there are norms. There are customs. There are values that our parents taught us and that we try to teach to our children -- to try to treat others the way that we want to be treated. The notion that kindness breeds kindness..."

Obama said allowing the "darker side of politics" to continue creates a "permission structure that allows the animosity in one corner of our politics to infect our broader society."

He said parents should not be afraid to take their children to political rallies or to watch political debates on television.

"When we leave this lunch, I think we have a choice. We can condone this race to the bottom or accept it as the way things are and sink further; or we can roundly reject this kind of behavior, whether we see it in the other party, or more importantly, when we see it in our own party."

Speaking for himself, Obama said, "I reject any effort to spread fear or encourage violence or to shut people down when they're trying to speak. Or turn Americans against one another. And I think as a citizen...I will not support somebody who supports that kind of politics."

Later, at the daily White House briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest was asked several times why the president used a bipartisan celebration of Irish heritage to talk about vulgarity on the campaign trail.

"The president's committed to redoubling his efforts to ensure that our political disagreements can be debated without demonizing and marginalizing or questioning the very motives of people who just happen to disagree," Earnest said. "And the president took advantage of the opportunity today to talk about it. And I'm confident it's not for the last time."

Another reporter wondered if Tuesday's primaries factored into the president's decision to indirectly condemn the Republican front-runner:

"I feel confident in telling you that the president would have made those comments even if the ... St. Patrick's Day activities had been held on St. Patrick's Day," Earnest said. "So even if it had been Thursday, I'm confident the president would have been struck by the same inspiration that this is an event that is often characterized by a lot of camaraderie and fellowship and that that stands in pretty stark contrast, unfortunately, to the divisive and vulgar rhetoric that we have seen on the campaign trail of late."

Earnest said he thinks Obama "feels a moral responsibility, as the president of the -- as the president of the United States and as a citizen of this country, to stand up for our values and to make clear that the kind of divisive, hateful rhetoric that we see from multiple Republican candidates, not just one of them, is entirely inappropriate and entirely consistent with the core values of our country that we love."

The core values of the country we love have changed dramatically under President Obama's watch.

While campaigning for president in April 2008, President Obama alienated many small-town Americans, when he explained their frustrations over job losses and broken political promises this way: "And it's not surprising then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Later that year, in October, Obama told a plumber at a campaign event that he planned to raise taxes on successful Americans "to spread the wealth around."
Throughout his presidency, he has pitted "millionaires and billionaires" against the middle and lower classes, insisting in 2011, "This is not class warfare. It’s math...The money is going to have to come from someplace."

With support only from Democrats, President Obama signed a government health care mandate in 2010, breaking his repeated promises to let people keep the plans they liked. He also offended the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who opposed Obamacare's birth control/abortifacient mandate.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2015, Obama reminded the faithful that just as some people "profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it," so people have "committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." He suggested that the Christians in the audience should exercise "some basic humility...Not being so full of yourself and confident that you are right, and that God speaks only to us and doesn't speak to others."

With a weak and ineffectual Republican Congress standing by, Obama applied his uncompromising attitude to major issues of the day, including homosexual marriage and illegal immigration, leaving Americans angry, divided and feeling powerless to reverse the tide rolling over the border and steamrolling traditional values.

Under the Obama administration, racial tensions were exacerbated to the point where one Democrat running for president was forced to apologize for saying that "all lives matter."

In 2015, the Gallup polling organization declared Obama one of the most polarizing presidents ever.


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