Yesterday, during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US President Barack Obama was asked about anti-Trump conservatives' contention that his administration is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump. He replied with a wry grin: "I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they're selecting for their party, um...is novel."
He then went on more seriously to say again that he regrets the polarization in DC, and that he does "all kinds of soul searching in terms of the things I can do better to make sure that we unified country."
And then he said this:
It's fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets—social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations—have been feeding the Republican base, for the last seven years, a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a 'them' out there and an 'us'—and 'them' are the folks who are causing whatever problems you're experiencing.BOOM.
And the tone of that politics, which I certainly have not contributed to— I, you know, I don't think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example, and I don't remember saying, 'Hey, why don'tcha ask me about that?' [chuckles] Or, 'Why don'tcha question whether I'm American? Or whether I'm loyal. Or whether I have America's best interests at heart.'
Those aren't things that were prompted by any actions of mine. And so, what you're seeing, within the Republican Party, is to some degree, all those efforts, over a course of time, creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive. He's just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.
And, in fact, in terms of his positions on a whole range of issues, they're not very different from any of the other candidates. I mean, it's not as if there's a massive difference between Mr. Trump's position on immigration and Mr. Cruz's position on immigration. Mr. Trump might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it, but the actual positions aren't that different.
For that matter, they're not that different from Mr. Rubio's positions on immigration. Despite the fact that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio—their own families are the products of immigration and the openness of our society.
So I am—I am more than happy to own the responsibility as President, as the only office-holder who is elected by all the American people, to continue to make efforts to bridge divides and help us find common ground. As I've said before, I think that common ground exists all across the country—you see it every day in how people work together and live together and play together and raise their kids together.
But what I'm not going to do is to validate some notion that the Republican crack-up that's been taking place is a consequence of actions that I've taken.