WASHINGTON — President Obama said in an interview released Monday that politics in America had become “meaner” than when he took office, but expressed hope that Republicans would eventually turn away from the “expression of frustration” and anger that Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz were offering to voters.Speaking to Politico’s Glenn Thrush for the site’s “Off Message” podcast, Mr. Obama said the Republican candidates for president were more outside the mainstream than Senator John McCain was during the 2008 campaign.
“John McCain was a conservative, but he was well within, you know, the mainstream of not just the Republican Party but within our political dialogue,” Mr. Obama told Politico. The president said voters would have to judge “the degree to which the Republican rhetoric and Republican vision has moved, not just to the right, but has moved to a place that is unrecognizable.”
The president’s comments came one week before voters in Iowa gather to caucus in the first presidential voting of the 2016 campaign to succeed him. In the interview, he expressed hope that voters in Iowa and in later contests would “steer back towards the center.”
Mr. Obama also talked at length about the Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, describing both as “passionate about giving everybody a shot.” He disputed the idea that Mr. Sanders was idealistic while Mrs. Clinton was pragmatic, saying the two candidates have elements of both qualities in their political outlook.
The president said Mr. Sanders had succeeded in speaking bluntly to an American public that was eager to break free from conventional political limitations.
“Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose,” Mr. Obama said. He added that Mr. Sanders “has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, and great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless.”
“His attitude is, ‘I got nothing to lose,’” the president said.
Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, entered the 2016 contest with the “privilege and burden” of being the front-runner, Mr. Obama said. Her long experience in government, as a senator and secretary of state, is both a strength and a weakness, the president said. He continued that being “wicked smart” about policy “could make her more cautious and her campaign more prose than poetry.”
But he added that those same experiences meant that “she can govern and she can start here, day one, more experienced than any non-vice president has ever been who aspires to this office.”
Mr. Obama said that in 2007, Mrs. Clinton demonstrated “sheer strength, determination, endurance, stick-to-it-ness, never-give-up attitude” as she fought him for the Democratic nomination. He said she had to work harder than he did during that contest.
“We had as competitive and lengthy and expensive and tough a primary fight as there has been in modern American politics, and she had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels,” Mr. Obama said. “She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her. She had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did.”
He also recalled with fondness the months he spent in Iowa, calling it “the most satisfying political period” in his career, especially, he said, because of the young campaign workers who toiled on his behalf there.
“If you were feeling bad, you went to Iowa for a while and you went to the headquarters and you ate some, you know, old pizza and just talked to these guys and you got fired up all over again,” he said.
Source : The New York Times By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
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