By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and GARDINER
HARRIS, NY Times
President Obama delivers remarks on campaign
WASHINGTON — President Obama said on Tuesday that the violent scenes playing out at rallies for Donald J. Trump threatened to tarnish “the American brand,” and he called on politicians in both parties to reject them. Speaking at the Capitol for the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon with lawmakers, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Trump by name, but he criticized the protesters who have interrupted the candidate’s campaign events and the violent response from Mr. Trump’s supporters.
Violence has broken out at Trump rallies in Chicago, North Carolina and Ohio as protesters increasingly seek to disrupt the events.
On Friday, Mr. Trump canceled a rally in Chicago, sending thousands of people home, after his supporters clashed with protesters at an arena there.
Mr. Obama said the actions of both sides damaged American politics and the nation’s reputation around the world. Politicians should think of the effect their language has on children who are watching, he said.
“We should not have to explain to them this darker side” of the political system, Mr. Obama said as lawmakers — including the leaders of the Republican Party — sat nearby.
The audience remained hushed for Mr. Obama’s remarks, listening as the president turned to address the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, who was the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012.
Mr. Obama told Mr. Ryan that he disagreed with him on most policy issues. “But I don’t have a bad thing to say about you as a man,” he said. Mr. Ryan nodded in agreement as Mr. Obama continued. “I know you want what’s best for America,” the president said.
Mr. Obama’s comments about the rallies echoed remarks he has made repeatedly about Mr. Trump, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, in the last several weeks. On Friday, Mr. Obama mocked him during remarks at a Democratic fund-raiser in Austin, Tex., criticizing Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.
“We’ve got a debate inside the other party that is fantasy and schoolyard taunts and selling stuff like it’s the Home Shopping Network,” Mr. Obama said, referring to a news conference in which Mr. Trump showed off an array of products bearing his name.
The president said Republicans should not be surprised by the language Mr. Trump and some of his rivals were using in an effort to win the nomination.
“They can’t be surprised,” Mr. Obama said, “when somebody suddenly looks and says: ‘You know what? I can do that even better. I can make stuff up better than that. I can be more outrageous than that. I can insult people even better than that. I can be even more uncivil.’ ”
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama had decided to criticize Mr. Trump during the annual Capitol Hill celebration of Irish heritage because the camaraderie and fellowship at the event “is in stark contrast to the kind of vulgarity we see on the campaign trail.”
Mr. Earnest noted that the event celebrated immigration, an issue that has become politically toxic among Republican presidential candidates.
“After all, Irish immigrants have thrived in America,” Mr. Earnest said. Borrowing part of Mr. Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again,” he added: “The president has long believed that’s an important part of what makes America great.”
Mr. Earnest said Mr. Obama was likely to speak again about divisive campaign language.
“I think the president is concerned about the corrosive impact of the tone of the political debate,” Mr. Earnest said.
Responding to a statement by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, urging Mr. Trump to condemn violence regardless of its cause, Mr. Earnest said Republican leaders should not condemn Mr. Trump’s divisive statements while also supporting his bid for the presidency.