As Donald Trump inches closer to securing the Republican nomination, President Obama is getting more outspoken in his efforts to combat the billionaire’s growing popularity. After mocking him at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on Saturday, Obama told a reporter on Monday that Trump was in no way qualified to be the president of the United States.
“He is not somebody who, even within the Republican Party, can be considered as equipped to deal with the problems of this office,” he said in an interview with a New Hampshire-based ABC news affiliate.
It’s the latest word from Obama in a series of remarks that have denigrated The Donald. Over the past weeks and months, Obama has denounced Trump’s proposal to let our Pacific allies build their own nuclear arsenals, insisted repeatedly that Trump will not be president, and criticized the media for enabling his meteoric rise. At a nuclear summit last month, he concluded that Trump knew nothing about the world in general.
Of course, what influence Obama will have remains to be seen. Anyone who is even mulling over the possibility of voting for Donald Trump is unlikely to take Obama’s warnings seriously. In fact, the more Obama goes after Trump, the more he will embolden his supporters. This president continues to enjoy excellent approval numbers from Democrats, but he is, shall we say, not quite so popular among conservatives. After sitting through eight years of lies and incompetency, we have no reason to assign any particular value to Obama’s opinion.
Even so, this is almost certainly a sneak peek at the argument that will form the backbone of Hillary Clinton’s anti-Trump campaign. And, being objective, it is the biggest hurdle he will have to overcome. As fun as it is to put everyone in one of a few select corners, there are undoubtedly millions of voters sitting on the fence. Many of them are Republicans who believe, as Obama believes, that Trump does not have the breadth of knowledge necessary to take up residence in the White House.
But how serious is this concern? First of all, the percentage of Americans who can reasonably claim to be experts in geopolitical affairs is so minute as to be invisible. They aren’t personally judging Trump’s knowledge against their own understanding; they are being fed a narrative from “authorities” who tell them what to think. Or worse, they are conflating his unpolished way of speaking about these things with ignorance. After years of watching politicians deliver carefully-conceived gobbledygook, Trump’s casual approach to debates, interviews, and rallies takes some getting used to.
On the other hand, only a fanboy would automatically dismiss all Trump criticism as politically-motivated. And while it’s reasonable to assume that Trump must be somewhat intelligent to have built his empire, his business acumen is not guaranteed to carry over into every aspect of the presidency. And though he has said a lot of things that excite a lot of conservatives, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of deifying him. There’s no shortage of conservative thinkers who have fiercely criticized Trump’s ill-preparedness, and not all of them belong to the “establishment.”
It seems unthinkable that Hillary’s nakedly liberal agenda would be better for the country than Trump, but conservative voters will have to make that determination for themselves.