President Barack Obama on Tuesday downplayed Donald Trump's suggestion that November's election is "rigged," and said the GOP presidential nominee needs to toughen up."I'd advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and try to go make his case to get votes," Obama said at a White House news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi."If whenever things are going badly for you, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama continued. "There are a lot of time things don't go our way or my way ... that's OK, you fight through it."
For a guy who enjoys boasting about his "strength" and "toughness," Donald Trump has a bad habit of whining. When the Republican presidential nominee isn't complaining about the nefarious forces he perceives as his enemies (journalists, GOP leaders, microphones, Democrats, members of the "global power structure," et al), Trump is expressing his dissatisfaction with those he sees as uncooperative (pollsters, the Commission on Presidential Debates, Emmy voters, et al).Reactions to this tend to be a matter of personal taste: Trump's followers seem to relate to his near-constant complaining, while Trump's critics are less impressed. But when the Republican candidate started insisting that the American elections process is "rigged" against him, the complaints raised a different kind of alarm: Trump's misguided rhetoric is arguably dangerous if it baselessly undermines public confidence in the American democratic system.To their credit, some notable Republican officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have pushed back, saying publicly that there's simply no reason to question the integrity of the U.S. voting process. Today, President Obama weighed in on the same subject -- in a rather direct way.
At the same press conference, the president added, "I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It's unprecedented,"That happens to be true. As we discussed yesterday, there's simply no precedent for anything like this in the American tradition. Voters have never seen a major-party presidential nominee go to such lengths to undermine confidence in their own country's voting system -- without any proof whatsoever -- intentionally trying to delegitimize an election before it occurs.But also note how Obama lowered the boom: "It doesn't really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you'd want out of a president."The point isn't exactly subtle. The president could explain how and why Trump is wrong, but Obama chose to go one step further, noting that anyone who whines like this simply isn't prepared for the task at hand.The New Republic's Brian Beutler noted in response, "[A]s the current president, and the most popular and trusted politician in the country, Obama's scolding and taunting serves both to restore as much faith as possible in the system and to make Trump look petty and weak. This will resonate widely both because it's so evidently true and because it's likely to set Trump off on a new round of anti-Obama conniptions."Ideally, none of this would be necessary, but since Americans find themselves in less-than-ideal circumstances, it's good to see the president defend democratic institutions that are facing nonsensical attacks.