GOP campaign attacks 'ridiculous' and bad for politics, Obama says

President Obama spoke out against Republican 2016 presidential candidates at a news conference in Ethiopia Monday.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
President Obama (l.) comments on recent statements by Republicans as he and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (r.) hold a news conference after their meeting at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday.

Republican campaign-trail attacks are cheapening political discourse in the United States, according to President Obama.

Speaking at a press conference in Ethiopia Monday, Mr. Obama commented on the race to replace him, criticizing Republicans Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz as candidates who have violated an American tradition of not playing “fast and loose” when it comes to foreign policy and other critical issues.

“We have robust debates, we look at the facts,” Obama said at a news conference in Ethiopia, where he spent time discussing human rights, regional security, and counterterrorism with African leaders. “We just don’t fling out ad hominem attacks like that because it doesn’t help inform the American people.”

GOP rhetoric has intensified by the day as the party’s 16 White House contenders vie for attention in the lead-up to their first debate on Aug. 6. Only the top 10 candidates in an average of national polls will meet the criteria for the debate in Cleveland.

Real estate mogul and reality television personality Donald Trump recently faced an onslaught of criticism after saying Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was captured and tortured in Vietnam, was “not a war hero.” Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry responded by calling Mr. Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” while South Carolina Gov. Lindsey Graham bemoaned the media’s focus on Trump.  

In return, Trump gave out Governor Graham’s cell phone number on national television.

“These are leaders in the Republican Party,” Obama said, adding that the back-and-forth among the candidates was creating a culture that would smother good politics and policies in the US. "The American people deserve better. Certainly presidential debates deserve better."

The president’s comments came after he was asked about criticism from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who a day earlier said Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was "the most feckless in American history."

“It is so naive that [Obama] would trust the Iranians," Mr. Huckabee said in an interview with conservative news outlet Breitbart. "By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven," he added, a reference to crematories in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Obama dismissed the criticism as a ploy to get attention and push Trump out of the headlines.

“The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are just part of a general pattern that would be considered ridiculous, if it wasn’t so sad,” Obama said, according to the Washington Post. He also singled out Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for saying that Obama, not Iran, is the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Obama noted that he has not yet heard a factual argument against the Iran deal that holds up to scrutiny.

"There is a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks it’s a good deal," he said at the conference. "It’s because it’s a good deal." 

Though Obama focused his rebukes on Republicans, he also said that both parties needed to approach the campaign with decency and respectability.

With just over a year left before Election Day, Obama said that regardless of what party his successor comes from, “I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to someone who’s serious about the problems the country, and the world, faces.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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