President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he routinely has to respond to foreign leaders who are concerned about the statements businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have made in their quest to secure the Republican presidential nomination, adding that it has damaged America’s standing overseas.
“I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made,” the president told reporters, adding that the concern is not just focused on Trump’s policy proposals but also those offered by Cruz, “which in some ways are just as draconian, when it comes to immigration.”
Obama, who initially responded to a question about the GOP frontrunner with an expression that combined faux horror and a smile – “Oh no, it’s Trump,” he said – proceeded to critique Trump’s latest proposal to finance a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico by threatening to halt billions of dollars in payments that Mexican immigrants send back home.
“This is just one more example of something that is not thought through,” he said of Trump’s plan. “The notion that we are going to track every … bit of money that’s sent to Mexico [through Western Union], good luck with that.”
The fact that these policy proposals are being rolled out on the campaign trail, the president argued, was now exacting a diplomatic cost.
“They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House,” Obama said. “We can’t afford that.”
Asked to elaborate on the president’s comments later, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said some of the sessions Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are having with their counterparts overseas “are clouded by these statements.”
“It makes those meetings less productive than they would otherwise be,” Earnest said, and, as a result, there are “questions that are raised in the minds of world leaders about what the United States stand for.”
“It’s harmful,” Earnest said. “It’s damaging.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Juliet Eilperin