The White House insists President Barack Obama won’t watch tonight’s Republican debate. But that isn’t stopping the administration from critiquing the GOP discussion.
At an appearance before a business group, Obama on Wednesday chastised the Republican field for portraying the U.S. as having lost its way.
“In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible,” Obama told the Business Roundtable in Washington. “They don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive – but they’re quick to tell you who to blame. I’m here to say that there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world.”
He didn’t mention Republican front runner Donald Trump by name, but seemed to take particular offense to Trump’s slogan: “Make America Great Again!”
“Despite the perennial doom and gloom that I guess is inevitably part of a presidential campaign, America is winning right now,” Obama said. “America is great right now.”
Obama did find some common ground with Republicans. Without mentioning Trump or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Obama said that he agreed with two “leading candidates” who want to eliminate the carried interest loophole.
“Keeping this tax loophole, which leads to folks who are doing very well paying lower rates than their secretaries, is not in any demonstrable way improving our economy,” he said. “On the other hand, if we close the tax loophole, we could double the number of workers in America’s job training programs. We could help another 4 million students afford college.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama’s remarks on the economy weren’t directed at Trump but an “effort to offer the American people a clear, accurate assessment of precisely the advantages that our country enjoys and to make sure that we're mindful of those advantages.”
Earnest has said Obama won’t watch the debate because he likely has “better things to do.” He said Wednesday Obama will be interested in hearing about the debate, “but I don't think that he'll be watching it in real-time.”
Obama’s remarks came seven years after the Wall Street crash and he called the subsequent economic recovery “a testament to American business and innovation. It’s a testament to the workers that you employ.” And he added, “but I’m going to take a little credit, too. It’s a testament to some good policy decisions.”