POLITICS

Obama Explains What's Fueling Trump's Rise

The president took a fresh swipe at the presumptive GOP nominee's failure to provide policy specifics.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday acknowledged that anger toward him, along with three decades of economic upheaval, is fueling the populism driving many white working-class voters to back presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"I think Trump is a more colorful character than some of the other Republican elected officials," Obama told PBS' Gwen Ifill during a town hall. "But a lot of the story that he's telling is entirely consistent with what folks have been saying about me, or the general story they've been telling about the economy, for the last seven-and-a-half, the last 10, the last 20, the last 30 years."

Obama spent the day in Elkhart, Indiana, touting the U.S. economic recovery during his presidency. The city is an important symbol of his legacy. It was the first city he visited as president, at the depth of the 2008 recession, when its unemployment rate was 17 percent. Today, it's 3.8 percent.

Elkhart, where Republicans hold a strong voter registration edge, benefited from the Obama administration's economic stimulus. Many residents, however, say they're skeptical it made a difference. Economic uncertainty was a major theme among questioners at Wednesday's town hall.

Obama conceded that the economic recovery hasn't benefitted everyone equally, fueling anger and frustration that has propelled Trump's candidacy.

"Even though we've recovered, people feel like the ground under their feet isn't quite as solid," he said. "And in those circumstances, a lot of times it's easy for somebody to come up and say, 'You know what? If we deport all the immigrants and build a wall; or if we cut off trade with China; or if we do x or y or z,' some simple answer, and suddenly, everything's going to feel secure."

But Trump's rhetoric about America's decline, Obama said, is wrong.

"I think America is pretty great," he said.

Obama has been outspoken against Trump's brand of divisiveness, often taking stabs at him in speeches without mentioning him by name.

"You know, he seems to do a good job mentioning his own name," Obama told Ifill. "I figured I'll let him do his advertising for him."

When asked about the impact of free trade on manufacturing jobs, Obama took another stab at Trump's lack of policy specificity.

"When somebody says, like the person you just mentioned who I'm not going to advertise for, that he's going to bring all those jobs back, well, how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There's no answer to it," Obama said. "He just says, 'I'm going to negotiate a better deal.' Well, how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is he doesn't have an answer."

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. 

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