On the occasion of the St. Patrick’s Day lunch on Capitol Hill Tuesday, President Barack Obama decried the “vulgar and divisive” nature of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Obama argued, “[T]his is also about what we are teaching our children. We should not have to explain to them this darker side of politics. We should not be afraid to take them to a political rally or let them watch political debates.”
The outgoing president said, “I know that I’m not the only one in this room who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail lately. We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities and Americans who don’t look like us or pray like us or vote like we do.” (WATCH: Obama: ‘I Certainly Have Not Contributed To’ Dividing The Country)
With allusions Donald Trump and his campaign, Obama said, “We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech, however offensive it may be. We live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold. In response to those attempts, we’ve seen actual violence and we’ve heard silence from too many of our leaders.” (RELATED: Trump Cancels Chicago Event Amid Chaos, Safety Concerns)
“Speaker Ryan, I appreciated the words on this topic that you shared with us this morning but too often, we’ve accepted this as somehow the new normal,” Obama said, adding “it’s worth asking ourselves what each of us may have done to contribute to this kind of vicious atmosphere in our politics. I suspect that all of us can recall some intemperate words that we regret. Certainly I can. And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it.” (RELATED: Ryan Condemns ‘The Left’ For Disrupting Trump Rallies [VIDEO])
Obama claimed that he 2016 election cycle is “not an accurate reflection of America and it has to stop. And I say that not because it’s a matter of political correctness, it’s about the way the corrosive behavior can undermine our democracy and our society and even our economy.”
“In America, there aren’t laws that say we have to be nice to each other or courteous or treat each other with respect, but there are norms, there are customs,” Obama said, “The longer that we allow the political rhetoric of late to continue and the longer that we tacitly accept it, we create a permission structure that allows the animosity in one corner of our politics to infect our broader society. And animosity breeds animosity.”
“[T]his is also about the American brand. Who are we? How are we perceived around the world? There’s a reason that America has always attracted the greatest talent from every corner of the globe. There’s a reason that ‘Made in America’ means something. It’s because we’re creative and dynamic and diverse and inclusive and open. Why would we want to see that brand tarnished,” Obama asked.
“The world pays attention to what we say and what we do,” he said.
The president concluded, “We should be teaching [our children] that this democracy is a vibrant and precious thing. And it’s going to be theirs someday. And we want them to elevate it.”