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Obama Calls Trump 'Unfit' To Be President, Questions Why Republicans Still Endorsing

President Obama slammed Republican nominee Donald Trump as "unfit" and "woefully unprepared" to be president during a news conference with Singapore's prime minister at the White House on Tuesday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Obama slammed Republican nominee Donald Trump as "unfit" and "woefully unprepared" to be president during a news conference with Singapore's prime minister at the White House on Tuesday.

President Obama reiterated that he believes Donald Trump is "unfit" to be president, issuing a sharp rebuke of the Republican nominee from the White House East Room on Tuesday.

"Yes, I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president," Obama said in response to a question from a reporter during a news conference with Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of Singapore. "I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it."

Obama's reference to last week was during his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, was nominated to be the Democratic nominee.

Obama then pivoted to question why Republican leaders, who have denounced Trump's response to a handful of issues, have still endorsed him. The latest being Trump's flap with the Khan family, the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004. Khizr Khan, Humayun's father, criticized Trump at the Democratic convention, questioning whether Trump had read the Constitution and charging that the New York real-estate developer had sacrificed little.

"[T]he question I think they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?" Obama said in particular of Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 2008 nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer?" Obama continued. "This isn't a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily and weekly where they are distancing themselves from statements he is making. There has to be a point at which you say, this isn't somebody I can support to be president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party. The fact that this has not happened makes these denunciations ring hollow."

During the GOP primary, Trump was critical of McCain and questioned his status as a war hero. "He's a war hero, 'cause he was captured," Trump said of McCain. "I like people that weren't captured, OK?"

Obama said he doesn't doubt that leaders like Ryan, McConnell and McCain were "outraged" by Trump's reaction to the Khan family. "But there has to be a point where you say, 'Someone who makes those kinds of statements doesn't have the judgment, the temperament, or the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.' Because a lot of people depend on the White House getting stuff right."

Obama added that his criticism is more fundamental than policy differences. "I recognize [the Republicans] profoundly disagree with myself and Hillary Clinton on tax policy or certain elements of foreign policy. But there have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed with, but I didn't have a doubt they could function as president. I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought they couldn't do the job....

"But that's not the situation here. ... There has to come a point at which you say, 'Enough.' The alternative is that the entire Republican Party effectively endorses and validates the positions being articulated by Mr. Trump."

Trump responded in a Tuesday afternoon statement:

"Obama-Clinton have single-handedly destabilized the Middle East, handed Iraq, Libya and Syria to ISIS, and allowed our personnel to be slaughtered at Benghazi. Then they put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons. Then they allowed dozens of veterans to die waiting for medical care that never came. Hillary Clinton put the whole country at risk with her illegal email server, deleted evidence of her crime, and lied repeatedly about her conduct which endangered us all. They released criminal aliens into our country who killed one innocent American after another — like Sarah Root and Kate Steinle — and have repeatedly admitted migrants later implicated in terrorism. They have produced the worst recovery since the Great Depression. They have shipped millions of our best jobs overseas to appease their global special interests. They have betrayed our security and our workers, and Hillary Clinton has proven herself unfit to serve in any government office.

She is reckless with her emails, reckless with regime change, and reckless with American lives. Our nation has been humiliated abroad and compromised by radical Islam brought onto our shores. We need change now."

A few hours later, he tweeted:

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.