In denouncing Trump, Obama praises a hypothetical President Romney

"I never thought that [Romney and McCain] couldn't do the job."

Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama spar during a presidential debate in 2012.

President Barack Obama said Donald Trump was “woefully unprepared” to be president, and drew a sharp contrast between Trump and Obama’s previous Republican competitors.

Obama, speaking at the White House on Tuesday, said Trump’s attacks on the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004 proved that he was “unfit to serve as president.” Trump does not have the “judgement, temperament, [and] understanding” to run the country, Obama said.

That was not an issue during the 2008 or 2012 presidential elections against Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama said:

“This is different than just having policy differences. I recognize that they profoundly disagree with myself or Hillary Clinton on tax policy or certain elements of foreign policy, but there have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed with but I didn’t have a doubt that they could function as president. I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn’t do the job.”

In addition, Obama imagined how he would have responded if McCain or Romney had been elected—”disappointed,” but confident that they would “observe basic decency,” he said.

“And had they won I would have been disappointed but I would have said to all Americans, ‘This is our president and I know they’re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy, and our constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work. And then we’ll compete four years from now to try to win an election.'”


Obama’s praise for could-have-been President McCain or President Romney represent how Trump’s nomination has made odd bedfellows out of Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans.

At the Democratic National Convention, Romney’s criticisms of Trump as lacking the “temperament” and “judgement” to be president were featured in a well-received video. Also at the convention, retired Rear Admiral John Hutson sharply criticized Trump for saying that McCain was “not a war hero” last year.

“Donald, you’re not fit to polish John McCain’s boots,” he said, drawing raucous applause from the crowd.

Obama’s comments on Tuesday were similar to his remarks at the DNC, when he said that the partisan reaction to Trump is a departure from normal Republican-Democratic differences.

“Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward,” Obama said last week. “But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative.”


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