Not any more.
On Monday in Ethiopia, Obama used a question at a press conference with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to swipe back at the recent rhetoric of GOP leaders and presidential candidates, calling it all “ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.”
Asked specifically about criticism by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee – who alluded to the Holocaust when he said that the president’s international nuclear deal with Iran would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven” – Obama said on Monday that issues of war and peace are too grave for Republicans to “play fast and loose that way.”
“The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, part of just a general pattern that we’ve seen that … would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said.
“We’ve had a sitting senator call [Secretary of State] John Kerry Pontius Pilate. We’ve had a sitting senator who also happens to be running for president suggest that I’m the leading state sponsor of terrorism. These are leaders in the Republican Party.”
That was Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas who likened Kerry to the Roman governor who turned Jesus over for crucifixion, and presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who said that, under the Iran deal, “the Obama administration will become the leading financier of terrorism against America in the world.”
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Obama suggested this may all be a ploy to pull the spotlight away from the current GOP presidential front-runner, businessman Donald Trump.
“When you get rhetoric like this, maybe it gets attention and maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now,” Obama said.
“In 18 months, I’m turning over the keys [to the White House]. I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to somebody who is serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces.”
After the president’s news conference, Huckabee released a statement to the media saying, “What’s ‘ridiculous and sad’ is that President Obama does not take Iran’s repeated threats seriously. For decades, Iranian leaders have pledged to ‘destroy,’ ‘annihilate’ and ‘wipe Israel off the map’ with a ‘big Holocaust.’ ‘Never again’ will be the policy of my administration and I will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.”