President Barack Obama's eighth and final State of the Union speech Tuesday night was focused on the future of the country, and one thing became clear: the president is just as concerned as many Americans are about the possibility of Donald Trump taking over the Oval Office next January.
With presidential candidates including Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Marco Rubio in the audience, Obama structured his speech around four questions, the last of which was: "How can we make our politics reflect what's best in us, and not what's worst?" Without naming the Republican frontrunner directly, Obama lamented the fact that the 2016 presidential campaign has resorted (more so than usual) to mudslinging and fearmongering.
"America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights," Obama said. "Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears."
Additional portions of the State of the Union that were directly tied back to Trump:
-Citing Pope Francis' Congressional address last year, in which the pontiff cautioned that "to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place," Obama added: "We don't need to build [terrorist groups] up to show that we're serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world's largest religions. ... When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."
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-The president called out Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, saying that such a policy would pose a greater threat to our national identity than the efforts of any terrorist group. "We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," Obama said unequivocally. "This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith."
-On policies regarding ISIS/ISIL: "Priority No. 1 is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today's world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage," Obama said. "But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands."
-Calling for "rational, constructive debates" in a political environment that is tempestuous at best, Obama noted: "Democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn't work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention."
Watch an excerpt from the State of the Union address here:
See the full speech here: