Obama rips into 2016 GOP field, mocks their debate complaints

Updated 5:22 PM EST, Tue November 3, 2015
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Story highlights

President Barack Obama mocked Republican presidential candidates for complaining about debate moderators

"Let me tell you, if you can't handle those guys, then I don't think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you," Obama said

(CNN) —  

President Barack Obama tore into Republican presidential candidates Monday night at a Democratic fundraising event in New York, saying their complaints about CNBC’s debate moderation aren’t an encouraging preview for their governing abilities.

“Have you noticed that everyone of these candidates say, ‘Obama’s weak. Putin’s kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he’s going to straighten out,’” Obama said, impersonating a refrain among Republican candidates that he’s allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin too much leeway.

What’s really behind the debate over the Republican debates?

“Then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at the debate. Let me tell you, if you can’t handle those guys, then I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you,” Obama said.

Republicans widely decried the GOP primary debate sponsored by the financial news network last week, saying the questions lacked substance and the moderators failed to adhere to agreed-upon standards. An effort to insist upon debate reforms, however, appeared uncertain Monday evening.

In 2007, when he was pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama had his own issues with debate hosts: Fox News. He, along with candidates Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, skipped out of a Fox News-Congressional Black Caucus co-hosted debate, spurred by pressure from the liberal Moveon.org, which claimed Fox News was biased against Democrats.

Obama, launching a series of darts on the Republican slate of candidates, said Monday they “occupy a different reality” on issues like health care, climate change and the economy.

’Shell-shocked’ CNBC staffers had long flight home

“According to them everything was really good in 2008,” he said. “When we were going through the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, unemployment and uninsured rates were up, we were hopelessly addicted to foreign oil and (Osama) bin Laden was still on the loose. This apparently was the golden age that I messed up.”

Obama was speaking ahead of a performance of the musical “Hamilton,” an audacious hip-hop telling of Alexander Hamilton’s life.

Opinion: The real lessons of CNBC debate

“They’re so glum,” he said of the 2016 GOP field. “They’re really so frustrated … Everybody here’s got a list of things we’ve got to tackle. But maybe what makes us a little different as Democrats is we try to base our analysis on facts.”

Referring to GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe’s use of a snowball on the Senate floor to question the existence of climate change – a recurring element of Obama’s criticism of Republicans – the President said only “that’s crazy.”

“I was going to quote Kanye but I can’t, because this is a family audience,” he said. “But it’s cray.”

What’s really behind the debate over the Republican debates?