President Obama’s having such a blast on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton. He’s in the final stretch/”no f*cks given” stage of his presidency, and although he’s still getting things done, he’s also giving us a glimpse of what type of ex-president he will be. Obama’s not afraid to tell it like it is, but he usually does so through in subtle ways. He’s a master at tossing out a vague air of exasperation, which was how he dealt with being asked about his birthplace in 2016. But he can also display great comic timing, as with his dispensing of the Alex Jones crowd when he countered demonic claims by sniffing himself during a recent Clinton campaign stop.
Obama’s also not afraid to chide Trump for skipping history class or to call out the Republicans who condemn his rhetoric but stick with him out of party loyalty. In a Thursday night speech, Obama took the GOP to task for elevating Trump to where he is today. Not only did the party fail to deal with the embarrassment head on (they figured he’d burn himself out, or voters would reject him) during primary season, but they also allowed their own pockets of extremism — like birtherism — to flourish:
“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. They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience. So if Trump was running around saying I wasn’t born here, they were OK with that as long as it helped them with votes. If some of these folks on talk radio talked about how I was the antichrist, that’s just politics.”
Obama then used a Trump construction metaphor to really hone in on how the Republicans have allowed Trump to co-opt their wildest fringe movements and conspiracy theories and call them his own:
“They stood by while this happened. And Donald Trump — as he’s prone to do — he didn’t build the building himself, he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it. And that’s what happened in their party. All that bile, all that exaggeration and stuff not grounded in fact, started bubbling up, surfacing. They knew better but didn’t say anything.”
This is a fair point. Republicans are now so outraged by what they see in Trump, but he’s only holding a mirror up to the uglier facets of the right-wing experience. And to be certain, both major parties have their embarrassing relatives, but Trump enjoys exploiting very vocal minorities (as long as they suit his purposes) and embraces them as the “outsider” candidate. Obama made the point that Republicans allowed it to happen, so the GOP civil war is a little bit silly at this point.
Obama also took aim, hilariously, at the “swamp of crazy” associated with those who once theorized Obama wanted to stage a martial-law takeover because of a routine military exercise taking place throughout several states. Down in Texas, Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott bought into the notion, and the latter used the Texas National Guard to oversee the military exercise. Obama couldn’t believe their pattern of thought:
“Really? You think that, like, the entire Pentagon said, ‘Oh really, you want to declare martial law, take over Texas, let’s do it under the guise of routine training missions.’ They took it seriously. This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again.”
Those rumors about a martial law-loving Obama grew to the point that Snopes felt the need to address them as “false.” When the Internet needs to constantly debunk the crazy that occurs in reality, that’s a pretty good indication of where American politics sit these days.