Obama Weighs In On GOP 'Crackup' In News Conference With Justin Trudeau

Mar 10, 2016
Originally published on March 10, 2016 5:51 pm
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President Obama says Republicans have only themselves to blame for this year's bare-knuckle primary campaign and the rise of Donald Trump. Obama was asked about Trump during a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The two leaders agreed to cooperate on a new push to fight climate change, and they also addressed the political climate. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Maple leaf flags fluttered under bright, sunny skies this morning as a crowd gathered outside the White House to welcome the young and attractive Canadian leader.

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BARACK OBAMA: I've never seen so many Americans so excited about the visit of a Canadian Prime Minister.

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HORSLEY: Trudeau's upbeat campaign last year has been likened to Obama's own hope-filled effort in 2008. This year's contest is considerably angrier. In the past, Trudeau has criticized what he calls the politics of fear, and he's joked about welcoming Americans who threaten to flee the country if Donald Trump is elected president. At the White House, though, the Canadian leader was careful not to meddle in America's domestic politics.

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JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I have tremendous confidence in the American people and look forward to working with whomever they choose to send to this White House.

HORSLEY: A reporter asked if Obama's own policies might've contributed to Trump's rise. Obama insists he's not responsible for what he calls the Republican crackup.

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OBAMA: 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 is novel.

HORSLEY: The president concedes partisan divisions have grown deeper on his watch and says he regrets that, but he adds thoughtful Republicans need to do their own soul-searching.

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OBAMA: I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they've engaged in that allows the circus we've been seeing to transpire.

HORSLEY: Obama's still fighting the GOP Congress over everything from the Supreme Court vacancy to retirement rules. But he's found an ally in Ottawa on climate change. Prime Minister Trudeau agreed to work with Obama to make steep cuts in a powerful greenhouse gas.

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TRUDEAU: The president and I have announced today that we'll take ambitious action to reduce methane emissions nearly by half from the oil and gas sector.

HORSLEY: The oil and gas industry blasted the plan, saying it could lead to higher prices for consumers. The methane reduction plan sets targets nearly a decade in the future, so it will be up to a new president and perhaps a new prime minister to carry it out. Obama insists the U.S.-Canadian partnership will outlast his time in office.

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OBAMA: Of course, I intend to make sure the next president who comes in agrees with me on everything, but just in case that doesn't happen, the U.S.-Canadian relationship will be fine.

HORSLEY: The president plans to cement that relationship tonight over a state dinner of lamb chops drizzled in Canadian whiskey. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.