He might be a major point of conversation, but President Barack Obama is unlikely to watch tonight’s first Republican debate, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
But Jon Stewart’s last night on the Daily Show? “That might get the president's attention,” Earnest acknowledged.
Insisting that Obama does not have a “rooting interest’ in the debate, Earnest said he nevertheless will be interested in the coverage.
“He, like many Americans, will find the values and priorities that are articulated in that debate to be rather illuminating,” Earnest said. “Particularly when you contrast them with the values and priorities that this administration has been advocating for for coming on seven years now.”
He said the White House had no plans for a war room or rapid response team, but expected the Democratic National Committee to attempt to “pull the truth out of the thicket of overheated rhetoric that we can expect to see tonight.”
Earnest said he was confident that Obama would get a chance to look at the highlights, or “the low lights, as I might describe them.”
Among the topics likely to be covered will be Obama’s controversial deal aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Republicans, chiefly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called for Obama to take back his characterization on Wednesday that Republicans are in sync with Iranian hardliners who chant “Death to America” and oppose the deal.
McConnell on Thursday called Obama’s remarks “crass political rhetoric” and promised a rigorous scrutiny of the agreement.
But Earnest made it clear that Obama isn’t backing down, calling it a “statement of fact.” He said hardliners in Iran are advocating for the defeat of the deal, as are some Republicans in Congress.
“In fact, you saw some of those same Republicans in Congress actually write a letter to the supreme leader of Iran advocating for the defeat of the deal, or at least promising to do so,” Earnest said. “The fact is, they've taken the same position.”