In a half-hour interview with NPR that aired on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama opened up on a series of topics, including the Republican Party’s strategy to exploit working-class fears around terror threats posed by the Islamic State group and said he believes that he has been a target personally as president because of his race. The president said people like Republican front-runner Donald Trump have encouraged resentment from blue-collar workers by scaring them.
“You combine those things and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear,” Obama said. “Some of it is justified but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.”
The president also pushed back on his critics who say that the United States should have a more aggressive approach to fighting ISIS. He said that many of the ideas coming from GOP presidential hopefuls are more tough talk than real strategy and criticized that approach for just “being louder” and “talking tougher.”
In addition, Obama said some of his opponents have been galvanized against him because of his heritage, which may represent a level of change that those opponents aren’t prepared for. Trump has capitalized on that opposition and the anxiety that comes with it to rise so high in the polls, the president said.
“If you are referring to specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I’m different, I’m Muslim, I’m disloyal to the country, etc. — which unfortunately is pretty far out there and gets some traction in certain pockets of the Republican Party and that have been articulated by some of their elected officials — what I’d say there is that that’s probably pretty specific to me and who I am and my background ,” Obama said. “In some ways, I may represent change that worries them.”
The president is currently on his yearly vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii and will return to Washington, D.C., in January.