President Barack Obama has launched an extraordinary attack on Donald Trump, breaking the etiquette of US election campaigns by describing the Republican Party nominee as “unfit” and “woefully unprepared” to be president.
The president used the worldwide forum of a White House press conference with a visiting foreign leader – Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong – to launch his most blistering condemnation of Trump.
Obama also urged Republican Party leaders to denounce Trump. His intervention is considered unprecedented because it’s an unwritten rule that domestic politics aren’t brought up during state visits.
Perhaps it’s tit for tat: Trump has overturned conventional political wisdom with outlandish and outrageous statements.
In the past week he has attacked the parents of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq and displayed ignorance of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. There have been questions about his five draft deferments during the Vietnam war years and how 20-year-old nude photos of his wife, Melania, turned up on the front page of a New York newspaper just when Trump needed a distracting headline.
He also described his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as “the devil”.
“Yes, I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president,” Obama said at the White House. “I said so last week [at the Democratic national convention], and he keeps on proving it.
“The notion that he would attack a gold star family [the name for a family whose relative has died in service] that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia means that he’s woefully unprepared to do this job.”
Addressing Republican leaders, Obama continued: “If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party that this is your standard bearer?
“There has to be a point at which you say, ‘This is not somebody I can support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party’.”
At the same time Trump held a rally to a cheering crowd in high school auditorium, receiving a replica Purple Heart [medal for US soldiers wounded in battle] from a veteran and proclaiming, “I’ve always wanted to get the real Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
Aiming to divert attention from his gaffes, Trump claimed it’s possible November’s election will be rigged. He then ordered a mother with a crying baby out of the hall. “You can get that baby out of here… I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking.”