The last time a sitting president had anything to say in public about his opposition party’s candidate was in 1952, when President Harry Truman reportedly said of future president Dwight D. Eisenhower, “[He] doesn’t know any more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday.” Given the benefit of hindsight, it was perhaps unfair, and no sitting president since has involved himself in the election year ruckus during his final year in office. Until Tuesday, that is.
President Obama was entirely justified when he broke his silence on Donald Trump’s candidacy—the most bizarre one in the history of our nation—with the kind of characteristically plain yet eloquent statement that makes you wonder what he might have accomplished had his hostile colleagues allowed him to pursue anything in earnest.
“The question [Republicans] 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? What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer?” Obama asked at a press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He added that, while he would not have been happy if John McCain or Mitt Romney had beaten him in 2008 or 2012, he would have at least been able to trust that they were fit to hold the office. “That is not the case [in 2016].”
This denunciation from President Obama comes as Trump’s antics are becoming so strange, his outbursts so lacking in even the most basic human empathy, that his own party is finally said to be planning an intervention and exploring options for a post-Trump candidacy. (Alas, the more-rabid-by-the-day rightist/populist army still hangs on The Donald’s every hateful word.) Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, billionaire (read: no logical reason to vote Democrat ever), and 2010 California GOP gubernatorial hopeful, also became the first high-profile Republican to defect, promising Hillary a massive donation to prevent a Trump Presidency. “Time and again history has shown that when demagogues have gotten power or come close to getting power, it usually does not end well,” said Whitman, who has finally gotten around to voicing what should have been screamed from Republican throats since March, but especially at the RNC.
And as if to prove that his juvenile, “my wallet could beat up your wallet” style of politicking has no place on the center stage that is a presidential general election, Trump has recently been deeply engaged in a feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Muslim parents whose son, United States Army Captain Humayun Khan, died fighting for the U.S. in 2004. On stage at the DNC, Khizr questioned Trump’s leadership ability and knowledge of the Constitution. Rather than take the advice of his team, the candidate decided to lash out with the first hateful tirade that came to mind, questioning their right to question him and implying that Ghazala didn’t speak because as a Muslim woman she wasn’t allowed to.
Donald will weather this storm as he has weathered every other storm since last year—with the help of a willfully ignorant, happily hateful “populist” base that yearns for a Duce to spoon feed them an American Dream full of employed white people and enormous prison colonies. But at least the center-right is finally shaking off its barnacles and admitting that maybe a despot wouldn’t be best for American democracy.