If one didn’t know Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump wasn’t dominating American politics, all they had to do was watch President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address and the Republican response to see that he is everywhere.
Obama’s final address to Congress could have done many things, such as providing a legislative agenda. He could have used what is probably the last time he will have such an audience in his lifetime to lay out for history what he wants his legacy to be.
Instead Obama both pointed broadly to some of his past successes and directly counterpoint Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail. Several times Obama indirectly referred to Trump’s campaign:
“Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up.”
“And that’s why we need to reject any politics — any politics that targets people because of race or religion.”
“When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad, or fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it what — telling it like it is, it’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.”
Obama even threw in a line directed at US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for good measure.
“The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.”
And the night wasn’t done hitting Trump. In the Republican response, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also took a few shots at Trump, without naming him.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory,” she said. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
While Obama’s speech was a retort to Trump about America’s values, Haley was making a retort on the Republican Party’s values.
The response to Haley’s speech was mixed among Republicans and the conservative grassroots. And that’s telling about the GOP and its future.James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign.