President Obama closed out a press conference Wednesday by rejecting the notion that Donald Trump represented a “populist” viewpoint. Saying controversial things was not “populism,” he said, without ever mentioning Trump’s name. “That’s nativism or xenophobia or worse. Or it’s just cynicism.”
The remarks came at the end of a presser in Ottawa, in which Obama took questions alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Nieto.
Populism was, as Obama put it, “a running thread” throughout the conference. Both the recent vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and Trump’s ascendance were popular themes. Both seemed to signal a rejection of globalism and a return to nationalist sentiments contrary to what the North American summit represented. So it was perhaps unsurprising that virtually every question looped in either the presumptive GOP nominee or the Brexit (British exit).
“I’m not prepared to concede the notion that some of the rhetoric that’s been popping up is ‘populist,'” Obama said. Someone “who has never shown any regard for workers, who has never fought on behalf of any social justice issues or making sure that poor kids have a decent shot at life or have health care, and in fact have worked against equal opportunity for workers and ordinary people — they don’t suddenly become a populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes. That’s not the measure of populism.
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