White House on questions about Trump: Bring 'em on

Obama: Trump 'doesn't know much about foreign policy'
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Obama: Trump 'doesn't know much about foreign policy' 01:58

Story highlights

  • The White House said that Obama has had to reassure allies on Trump
  • Obama's response has been much the same in private as it's been in public

Washington (CNN)There's a new item on the list of global concerns on which foreign leaders are turning to President Barack Obama for reassurance: Donald Trump.

But the White House press secretary says the administration isn't getting frustrated with the ever-incoming questions -- from reporters and heads of state alike -- asking the President to weigh in on the Republican front-runner's long string of controversial statements. On the contrary.
    The White House views them as an opportunity.
    "It only serves to illustrate the benefits of President Obama's approach," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told CNN Monday.
    A prime example came Friday, in the press conference following the global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
    The President, again asked about Trump's latest headlining comments -- this time, that South Korea and Japan could benefit from having their own nuclear weapons -- replied, "The person who made the statements doesn't know much about foreign policy, or nuclear policy, or the Korean Peninsula, or the world generally."
    Monday, when asked by CNN whether the President dreads such calls to wade into the campaigns or rather relishes them, Earnest explained, "I think the president welcomed the opportunity to use Mr. Trump's unwise position to illustrate the wisdom of the approach this administration has pursued."
    Still, the White House said that increasingly the President has had to reassure allies who find Donald Trump's foreign policy plans "unsettling."
    Earnest, who along with the President has stated that such rhetoric could damage America's standing in the world, said Monday that while he didn't believe that damage had already been done, "The damage is in concern that is expressed by people around the world, on whether or not the United States is going to continue to stand for and fight for the kinds of values that have been central to this country."
    Donald Trump calls NATO 'obsolete' during GOP town hall
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    He added, "The fact that Mr. Trump and other Republicans candidates want to walk away from some of those values, and in some cases even talk down those values, isn't just disappointing, it's unsettling to our allies that continue to depend on the United States."
    In addition to his remarks on nuclear weapons, Trump has called NATO "obsolete," warned that America's allies are freeloading while Washington shoulders their defense and called for a ban on Muslim foreigners entering the United States.
    Earnest suggested Monday that Obama would take more openings to swing back at these ideas.
    "I suspect over the course of the summer and fall, as the President's campaigning for the Democratic nominee, the President will have many more opportunities to highlight the difference in approach between that which is advocated by Mr. Trump and that which is advocated by Democrats, and in some cases even this administration," Earnest said.
    He then called the Republican front-runner's statements "unwise," "ill-informed" and "intemperate."
    The Trump campaign did not answer CNN's request for a response to the Obama administration's latest comments.
    Obama's words about Trump, Earnest said, have been much the same in public as they've been in private, when world leaders have asked him questions about the campaign and sought reassurance, including at the nuclear summit.
    Earnest says those discussions haven't been lengthy, but the President has reiterated that he remains convinced Donald Trump will not be his successor.
    "I think that gives the President, the American people and our allies around the world confidence the U.S. commitment to basic human rights, to smart nuclear policy, to our NATO alliance, is unwavering," Earnest said.