President Obama said Tuesday that he routinely has to respond to foreign leaders who are concerned about the statements businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have made in their quest to secure the Republican presidential nomination, adding that it has damaged America's standing overseas.
"I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made," the president told reporters. "I do have to emphasize that it’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals. You're also hearing concerns about Mr. Cruz’s proposals, which in some ways are just as draconian when it comes to immigration, for example."
Obama, who initially responded to a question about the GOP front-runner with an expression that combined faux horror and a smile — "Oh no, it's Trump," he said — proceeded to critique Trump's latest proposal to finance a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico by threatening to halt billions of dollars in payments that Mexican immigrants send back home.
But this is just one more example of something that is not thought through and is primarily put forward for political consumption," he said of Trump's plan. "The notion that we're going to track every Western Union bit of money that's being sent to Mexico, good luck with that."
The fact that these policy proposals are being rolled out on the campaign trail, the president argued, was now exacting a diplomatic cost.
"We've got big issues around the world. People expect the President of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analyzed, are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account," he said. "They don't expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House. We can't afford that."
Asked to elaborate on the president's comments later, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said some of the sessions Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry are having with their counterparts overseas "are clouded by these statements."
"It makes those meetings less productive than they would otherwise be," Earnest said, and, as a result, there are "questions that are raised in the minds of world leaders about what the United States stand for."
"It’s harmful," Earnest said. "It’s damaging."