Obama criticises tone of 2016 US presidential debate28 july 2015, 12:23
President Barack Obama delivered a withering critique of the vitriolic 2016 US presidential campaign Monday, branding it unworthy of American voters, AFP reports.
It is rare for a president to address domestic controversy while on a foreign trip, but Obama was asked about the increasingly hysterical tone of the campaign trail discourse while on a visit to Ethiopia.
With at least 16 Republicans vying for their party's candidacy to succeed Obama in 18 months time, his opponents have dramatically upped their rhetoric in a bid to get noticed.
Billionaire real estate mogul and White House hopeful Donald Trump has captured the news agenda with hardline anti-immigration language and insulting attacks on his Republican rivals.
Now former Arkansas governor-turned-talk-show-host Mike Huckabee launched an assault on Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, branding it a betrayal of Israel in terms recalling the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.
Addressing reporters in Addis Ababa, Obama hit out at the "outrageous" attacks, which he said "have become all too commonplace" in America's highly polarised politics.
"We are creating a culture that is not conducive to good policy or good politics," Obama said. "The American people deserve better."
Obama specifically berated Huckabee for his suggestion that the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran would march Israelis to the "door of the oven."
But he also broadened his response to warn that Huckabee's assault marked part of what he called a "general pattern" that would be "considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad."
Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner, weighed in as well, saying she was "offended personally" by Huckabee's remarks.
"I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable," she said while campaigning in Iowa.
Criticising the Iran deal is fair game, she stressed. "But this steps over the line and it should be repudiated by every person of good faith and concern about the necessity to keep our political dialogue on the facts and within suitable boundaries."
Obama is lobbying hard to defend the Iran deal, which could still be derailed by the US Congress and which is seen by aides as a signature achievement of his presidency.
The deal would place curbs on Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for relief from US and international sanctions, easing more than a decade of tensions.
Republicans have resoundingly rejected the agreement -- saying Iran should completely dismantle its nuclear programme -- and made it a central topic in the election campaign.
Obama also took issue with Trump's "outrageous" comments criticizing the war record of Republican Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Obama said McCain, whom he beat in 2008 to become president, was "somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism."
Trump's brash rhetoric troubles the Republican Party establishment but has also earned him frequent and prominent television spots on celebrity-obsessed US news channels.
Despite the disapproval of party heavyweights, the trash-talking billionaire polls well with Republicans angry with both the US elite and their own party leadership.
A poll released Sunday showed Trump with a big lead in New Hampshire, a key early primary state.
"These are leaders of the Republican Party," Obama said of Huckabee and Trump.
"It's not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now and I don't think that's what anybody -- Democrat, Republican or independent -- is looking for."
Obama has long been irked by underhand attacks from his opponents, which at their most extreme falsely cast him as foreigner born in Kenya or even a sponsor of terror.
Much of the dirt thrown at him has been trafficked on partisan websites or spouted by audience-hungry talk radio hosts.
Now, with mainstream Republican figures exposing themselves to public judgment by upping their own language, he may have the opportunity to turn the tables.
"Presidential debates deserve better," he said.
"In 18 months, I'm turning over the keys," Obama added. "I want to make sure I'm turning over the keys to somebody who's serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces."