President Barack Obama seemed at various points during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night to be lecturing Republican presidential candidates. His remarks drew attention to issues that have defined the 2016 presidential campaign, including Donald Trump's proposed bans on Mexican immigrants and Muslim tourists.
"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer," Obama said. He also defended immigrants in a year where Republican candidates have called for more border security. "Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns," Obama said.
The president later alluded to remarks by Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has called for the U.S. military to bomb the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. "The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage," Obama said. The president — without naming names — also dismissed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's contention that the United States is already engaged in World War III.
"Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention," Obama said in an apparent reference to Trump and other GOP candidates.
During the speech, Obama left a seat vacant to represent the victims of gun violence. Presidents traditionally invite guests to the annual speech to reflect various policy and political priorities for the year. But this was the first time Obama has left a seat empty since he took office in 2009, the New York Times reported. After a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California claimed 14 lives last month, Obama unveiled executive actions on gun control that would make it tougher to purchase guns from sellers who don't have a federal license. Critics claim Obama's gun control measures violate the Second Amendment by limiting gun rights.
Republicans seemed unfazed by Obama’s empty seat gesture. “If I’m elected POTUS,” Cruz wrote on Twitter, using the acronym for president of the United States, “there’ll be an empty seat for the over 50 million unborn children killed since Roe #Stand4Life.”