News & Politics

Obama Insiders Try to Explain Trump Phenomenon, Fail Spectacularly

According to past and present aides to President Barack Obama, the Republicans are “getting devoured by a candidate” (Donald Trump) who personifies “the anger agenda” because they stood “in the White House’s way at every turn.” The Obama insiders are right about one thing — Republican voters are angry. But perhaps these White House aides are too close to the problem to put their finger on the real reason why.

“It’s not so much a reaction to Obama,” one person familiar with the president’s thinking told Politico. “It’s more of a reaction to their strategy that, ‘We’re just going to be antithetical to everything [Obama] stands for.’”

Yeah, that sounds exactly like Obama’s thinking: Gee, if only the intransigent “party of no” had gone along with my agenda without a fight, there would be no Trump.

But on everything from guns to reproductive health to opening up Cuba, Obama’s team says it has been battling for years the very politics that paved the way for Trump’s ascendance this election cycle.

Translation: this wouldn’t be happening had the GOP given Obama his way on gun control etc.

Of course Obama’s flacks are 180 degrees wrong, as they usually are. The reason for the Trump temper tantrum is not because Republicans opposed Obama’s agenda too much — it is because they didn’t oppose him enough. The GOP was given the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 and its conservative base feels like they’ve gotten bupkis out of the deal. Republicans have caved to Obama almost as many times as Obama has caved to the mullahs in Iran.

People in the White House tell Politico that “Obama doesn’t talk about Trump much,” which is nice, but —

When he does, it’s with a combination of amusement and disgust at the rhetoric, occasionally mentioning his amazement at GOP leaders’ inability to understand Trump’s supporters and the long-term damage the president thinks Trump is doing to the party with the groups of voters who will decide future elections.

It should come as no surprise that Obama thinks he understands Trump supporters better than anyone else. He’s simply better at politics than anyone else — and he’ll be the first one to tell you that.

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” So of course he’s got the Trump phenomenon all figured out.

In addition to the GOP’s not rolling over enough to suit Obama’s needs, there’s another factor at work here that explains voter anger, according to the White House. And that factor begins with the letter “R.”

Aides say Trump played into fears and racism and encouraged voter distrust of the president, as he’s doing now on the campaign trail.

Obama administration alumni remember hearing what they call the “those people” strain of politics when they were knocking on doors in 2008. It was evident at rallies for Sarah Palin and at tea party events in the first term of his presidency. Americans weren’t wrong to think Obama’s election in 2008 meant the country had changed — the president himself bought into it and was frustrated in the early years to see how slowly it translated into policy accomplishments.

See? Some people think that the Tea Party movement was born out of principled opposition to the increase in spending and expansion of government that was in the bloated 2009 stimulus bill. They now stand corrected. It was because he looks different than they do and has “a funny name.”

Politico goes on to report that “Obama’s team refuses to see Trump’s political success as some kind of backlash against the president.”

“In the long sweep of history, this chapter is all pretty simple: The country actually switched from one dominant culture that was in charge for 240 years to one that’s multicultural,” said one Obama campaign veteran. “And that wasn’t going to go easy. But now we’re in the middle of it, so it seems chaotic and complicated.”

In other words, Trump’s supporters are racist troglodytes who just don’t appreciate how much better things are now that we’re “fundamentally transformed.” In our new utopia, the government gets to pick the winners and losers. And people who work hard for a living tend to be the biggest losers. Big government-loving plutocrats and bureaucrats are meant to be the biggest winners in our new “progressive” economy.

“It’s not that the country has changed, it’s that a narrow band of mostly white, low- and middle-income Americans are supporting a candidate who is speaking to their anxiety about being left behind in this economy,” said Bill Burton, a former deputy White House press secretary.

The good news is, the president knows how to fix this. It’s the same way he thinks everything gets fixed, from his ISIS failures to his ObamaCare failures. That’s right: more speeches.

Going into next year, Obama will be speaking out against Trump, as he did indirectly in several pro-immigration speeches earlier this month and by name in an interview with NPR last week, when he argued that the Republican front-runner is exploiting the fears of “particularly blue-collar men [who] have had a lot of trouble in this new economy.” And pushing back against Trump will be a central theme of Obama’s international engagement.

Because supporting Trump is exactly what ISIS wants etc., etc…

“The nature of American politics is that all these statements are consumed around the world,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. “When there are statements that could present challenges in terms of perceptions of America’s openness to people of different faiths and America’s inclusiveness, the president is going to speak out on that.”

That’s awesome. Donald Trump has certainly been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle. But as a general rule, presidents don’t speak out against specific candidates. But then, Obama’s always been a trailblazer.