The deeply pessimistic outlook that Donald Trump offered at this week’s Republican National Convention doesn’t match reality, President Barack Obama insisted on Friday.
Noting he didn’t watch Trump’s prime-time acceptance speech on Thursday – “I’ve got a lot of stuff to do” – Obama said he read news coverage of the remarks. And he said they didn’t match most Americans’ experiences.
“This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse, this vision of violence and chaos everywhere, doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people,” Obama said during a press conference in the White House East Room alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
“I think it is important to be absolutely clear here. Some of the fears that were expressed throughout the week just don’t jibe with the facts,” he said, going on to cite statistics showing crime rates have fallen under his presidency.
“America is much less violent than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” Obama said.
“We’re not going to make good decisions based on fears that don’t have a basis in fact,” the President said. “And that, I think, is something that I hope all Americans pay attention to.”
However, less than three hours after the news conference, Obama addressed the public again to offer support to Germany after several mall-goers were reported dead and injured from a shooting spree in Munich.
Obama called Germany “one of our closest allies” and pledged “all of the support they may need.”
Obama was speaking the day after Trump formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination with a lengthy address at his party’s convention. The speech cast the country as woefully off-course after seven-and-a-half years under Obama’s leadership, painting a dark portrait of crime run amok, a lagging economy, and constant threats of terrorism.
Speaking later Friday to CBS News, Obama said the attack in Munich didn’t prove Trump was right about the emerging threat of terrorism.
“Terrorism is a real threat, and nobody knows that better than me,” Obama said on “Face the Nation,” according to excerpts released Friday afternoon. “One of the best ways of preventing it is making sure we don’t divide our own country, that we don’t succumb to fear, that we don’t sacrifice our values, and that we send a very strong signal to the world and to every American citizen that we’re in this together.”
Obama, who last month endorsed Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of state, is expected to spend this weekend preparing his own convention address, set to be delivered Wednesday evening in Philadelphia, where Democrats are gathering. It’s his first political speech since he campaigned with Clinton earlier this month in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In that speech, Obama appeared loathe to mention Trump by name, preferring instead to make implicit references to his policies and rhetoric. Obama has said that Trump has been successful enough in generating his own publicity without any presidential mentions.
But the decision to invite the president of Mexico – a country that has been a recurrent focus of the Republican’s campaign – for talks and a press conference after the GOP convention provided a high-profile opportunity for Obama to rebut Trump’s address, during which he cited his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.
Making his pitch for a massive trade deal with Pacific nations, Obama pushed back against Trump’s more isolationist platform – and took a dig at the GOP candidate’s proposed border wall.
“Globalization is a fact, because of technology, because of an integrated global supply chain, because of changes in transportation,” he said. “And we’re not going to be able to build a wall around that.”
The US and Mexican presidents met in person only three weeks ago at a North American Leaders summit in Canada. It’s rare for Obama to meet with the same foreign counterpart in such a short time span.
Pena Nieto has been outspoken in his distaste for Trump, comparing the GOP nominee to fascist dictators Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He’s rejected Trump’s suggestion that Mexico should pay for a border wall.
But on Friday he instead stressed the “unbreakable” relationship between his country and the United States, no matter who becomes president.
“The closeness between the US and Mexico is more than a relationship between two governments,” Pena Nieto said through a translator in his opening remarks. “It is a solid, sound, unbreakable relationship between peoples who live in both nations.”
“I am certain the political process in the following months will be characterized by the intensity of the debate,” he said, offering his “deepest respect” to both Clinton and Trump.
In their Oval Office talks earlier Friday, Obama and Pena Nieto discussed trade and climate change.