Guthrie Frets to Obama: ‘Trump Has Made it Pretty Personal Against You’

After asking President Obama if the prospect of Donald Trump having control of the nuclear codes was “frightening,” in part two of a White House interview aired on Tuesday’s NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie worried that Trump was the one launching personal attacks: “Does it feel personal? I mean, Mr. Trump has made it pretty personal against you. I could give you a list, which I guess I probably don't need to.”

Obama used the opportunity to mount his high horse and lecture the GOP: “...we do think that it makes it difficult to run the country. Not just for me, but for Republican leaders....if you are telling your base, if you’re telling your voters, that the other side is not just wrong but bad and unpatriotic, and different, and are undermining America, well, then what they’re going to say to you is you can't work with them, you can't compromise.”

The President, who has routinely demonized Republicans throughout his time in office, laughably argued that he was happy to work across the aisle: “I disagreed with John McCain on issues or Mitt Romney on issues, but there wasn’t a sense that we couldn't find common ground on certain things. I think Paul Ryan, and before him, John Boehner, are patriotic Americans who care about a lot of the same things I do.”

Guthrie wondered: “Is Donald Trump in a different category?” Obama sneered: “My sense is only he could tell you what’s in his heart and on his mind. I think that he is somebody who likes attention, maybe surprised himself that he got this far.”

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Teeing up the commander-in-chief to hit Trump again, Guthrie posed: “When he says something like, ‘I alone, can fix it.’ You’ve been in this job for eight years, how does that strike you?” Obama declared: “We’re not a government where some strong man orders people around and banishes enemies.” Rather than challenge that description, she simply replied: “Do you see shades of that with him?”

Guthrie urged him to attack Trump one last time: “But to push you on it a little bit, do you see something about Donald Trump that's different than your regular Republican opponent with whom you have disagreements?” Obama happily obliged: “Oh, absolutely. For one thing, he doesn't seem to have any plans or policies or proposals or specific solutions.”

Here is a full transcript of the second portion of the interview aired on July 27:

7:31 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Trump’s campaign was just one of the topics we touched on during our exclusive White House interview with President Obama, as he prepares for his address tonight at the convention. I also asked the President to weigh in on his wife Michelle's speech and whether he thinks he can match it.

[TO OBAMA]: Pressure’s on.

BARACK OBAMA: I – you know what? I'm not going to hit that bar. So let me concede, top speech making already to my wife. But I couldn't have been prouder of her, the way she was able to remind all of us that where this really counts is the kind of message that we're sending our kids about who we are and where we want to take this country.

MICHELLE OBAMA: When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is when they go low, we go high.

GUTHRIE: She didn't name names but did you feel like she wanted to call it out?

BARACK OBAMA: She's always been concerned about the tone and the tenor of politics. One of the things that we always talk about with our girls is how do you treat other people. We're always reminding them, treat people the way you want to be treated. If you want to be an adult that's worthy of respect, than you have to be willing to give respect. One of the weird things about politics is sometimes we tolerate things that we would never tolerate in any other field or in our personal life. We wouldn't expect somebody to repeatedly say things that were demonstrably not true and somehow get a pass. We would say, well, that's a problem.

GUTHRIE: Does it feel personal? I mean, Mr. Trump has made it pretty personal against you. I could give you a list, which I guess I probably don't need to.

OBAMA: You know, the truth is, is that what Mr. Trump has done is to make more explicit and branded what really has been going on for a long time. This isn't new stuff. So we don't take it personally. What we – we do think that it makes it difficult to run the country. Not just for me, but for Republican leaders. If you think about the fact that the Republicans right now control both the House and the Senate, and yet, they can't even pass their own agenda. Part of the reason is, is that if you are telling your base, if you’re telling your voters, that the other side is not just wrong but bad and unpatriotic, and different, and are undermining America, well, then what they’re going to say to you is you can't work with them, you can't compromise. I disagreed with John McCain on issues or Mitt Romney on issues, but there wasn’t a sense that we couldn't find common ground on certain things. I think Paul Ryan, and before him, John Boehner, are patriotic Americans who care about a lot of the same things I do.

GUTHRIE: Is Donald Trump in a different category?

OBAMA: My sense is only he could tell you what’s in his heart and on his mind. I think that he is somebody who likes attention, maybe surprised himself that he got this far.

GUTHRIE: When he says something like, “I alone, can fix it.” You’ve been in this job for eight years, how does that strike you?

OBAMA: Well, that's not how our founders designed our system. We’re not a government where some strong man orders people around and banishes enemies.

GUTHRIE: Do you see shades of that with him?

OBAMA: Well, I think that it is important for us to remember that we live in a democracy, and by definition then, the way we solve problems is by everybody participating and arguing and occasionally having to compromise.

GUTHRIE: But to push you on it a little bit, do you see something about Donald Trump that's different than your regular Republican opponent with whom you have disagreements?

OBAMA: Oh, absolutely. For one thing, he doesn't seem to have any plans or policies or proposals or specific solutions. The good news is we've got a candidate in Hillary Clinton who has put out very specific plans and programs and is telling you exactly what she’s going to do.

MATT LAUER: You know, I'm listening to your conversation. Remember we were at the White House about six months ago, and when you talked to President Obama then about the possibility of a Trump presidency, he almost just dismissed it.

GUTHRIE: He did to you. He said – you said, “Can you imagine next year's State of the Union, seeing President Trump?” And he said, “I can imagine it in a SNL skit. Talk to me if he wins.”

LAUER: Right and now he’s more subtle.

GUTHRIE: Now he’s saying it's a possibility.

LAUER: Anyway, good interview.


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