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Obama's Criticism Reveals Multi-Front Campaign Against Trump


And for more on the politics of President Obama's comments today, I am joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi there, Mara.


MCEVERS: So this was a tough speech from the president. What did you make of his demeanor here?

LIASSON: This was very tough. The president was responding - you could say counterpunching - to Donald Trump, who yesterday said that President Obama should resign and suggested that the president was somehow sympathetic with the terrorists. Trump said several times yesterday that we're led by a man who's either, quote, "not tough, not smart or has something else in mind. And that something else in mind - people can't believe it. There's something going on."

So this I think was partially personal. It was also just an extraordinary unprecedented involvement by a sitting president to get involved in a presidential campaign like this.

MCEVERS: Hillary Clinton spoke just after President Obama, and she was equally critical of Trump if not more so, right?

LIASSON: That's right. There has been no pause at all from the two campaigns after this horrific tragedy, and there's yet another extraordinary aspect of this year's campaign, which is that Donald Trump, who still hasn't unified his own party, doesn't just have one opponent this year. He has two going after him full throttle - the sitting president - very active and involved, as you just heard - and Hillary Clinton, who did give another blistering speech today in a union hall in Pittsburgh, Pa., where she said it was shameful that Trump has suggested President Obama was somehow sympathetic to the terrorists.

He said - she said this is yet more evidence that Trump is temperamentally unfit to totally unqualified to be commander in chief. That's her basic argument against Trump. She also asked, will Republicans stand up to their presidential nominee. And Donald Trump has given Republicans a new round of heartburn after Orlando.

Paul Ryan, as you heard Scott say, again had to disavow the Muslim ban that Trump has proposed. And a lot of Republicans are saying there is a foreign policy argument to be made against the Obama administration, but Trump isn't making it. Instead he's creating a conversation about whether American values include a religious test on immigration.

MCEVERS: You talk about the involvement of a sitting president. Do you see him being more involved in this campaign going forward?

LIASSON: Absolutely. He has made it clear he's eager to get into the race, and he's going to do it.

MCEVERS: Also today, Mara, is the final presidential primary. Democrats are voting in Washington, D.C., and Bernie Sanders is still in the race. What is happening in the primary at this point?

LIASSON: Well, the campaign seems to have moved on because the general election battle is fully engaged. But Sanders and Clinton are meeting tonight in D.C. He has said that he wants to hear from her about his issues before he's willing to endorse her. But Orlando may be changing things. We're not sure yet what broader political impact the attacks will have, whether it will help Trump or help Clinton. We're waiting for some polls there.

But one thing we can say is that it appears to have sidelined Sanders and made him seem even more of an asterisk because he doesn't have a lot to contribute to the debate about how to protect Americans from homegrown terrorism.

MCEVERS: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.