Obama hammers Trump-style politics in red state Nebraska

Story highlights

  • "We have to reject any politics that targets people because of their race or their religion. That we have to reject," Obama said
  • He did not mention Donald Trump by name, but he did slam politicians who insult Muslims

Omaha, Nebraska (CNN)President Barack Obama sharpened his State of the Union warning against divisive politics Wednesday, using a campaign-style rally in Nebraska to deride politicians like Republican front-runner Donald Trump who he claimed was using fear as a tool to gain votes.

"We have to reject any politics that targets people because of their race or their religion. That we have to reject," Obama told a packed arena here on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
"I want to be clear about this. This is not about being politically correct," Obama said, saying he was in favor of robust political debates on issues like affirmative action and economic policies.
    "That doesn't mean that you go around insulting people and thinking that that is clever, or that is being honest, or telling it straight," he said. "No that's just being offensive. And that's feeding some of our worst impulses. And that does not make us strong."
    Obama is traveling to Republican states in the days following his yearly address to Congress to advance his message of reconciliation between the parties, a longstanding goal he acknowledged during his speech has gone unfulfilled.
    "It's one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," he said during his State of the Union address Tuesday.
    He hit back at that rancor in Omaha, using harsh language that his critics argue only fuels the partisanship that has gripped Washington for his entire term.
    "When you hear people peddling this fiction about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker, when you hear folks say we can solve challenges just by looking meaner and talking tougher and carpet-bombing wherever we want, that's just hot air," he said.
    "It's bluster. It's not serious," he continued. "There's another word for it that start's with a 'B.' "
    Avoiding a farmyard expletive, Obama declared, "It's baloney."
    He did not mention Trump by name, but he did slam politicians who insult Muslims, noting many serve in uniform in U.S. armed services. He added that those insults are "feeding some of our worst impulses. That doesn't make us strong ... (and) betrays who we are as a country."
    The comments appeared in reference to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's claim last month that he would "carpet bomb (ISIS) into oblivion."
    Obama also told the crowd -- estimated by a fire marshal at 11,000 -- that "we are far and away the strongest nation on the planet" and that it was strange that some in the State of the Union audience last night didn't applaud when he asserted the claim.
    "That shouldn't be a controversial statement right? We can all clap about that," he said. "That's how crazy our politics has gotten where we now feel obliged to not root for America doing good."