Donald Trump slams the president and his former secretary of state for misreading the political moment.
In the months leading up to the United Kingdom’s referendum on its European Union membership, President Barack Obama urged Britons to think carefully about the choice ahead of them. Leaving the EU would move the U.K. to the “back of the queue” on trade deals, he warned in April, and cast doubt upon the global institutions created in the wreckage of World War II.
Hillary Clinton, too, cautioned Britons against scuppering decades of ever-growing trans-Atlantic cooperation. In April, Jake Sullivan, her top foreign policy adviser, said the Western alliance has always been “strongest when Europe is united.” Donald Trump, on the other hand, while at times a full-throated supporter of Brexit, cautioned in a TV interview, “I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much.”
But on Friday, after British voters stunned the world by voting for “Leave,” Obama declared that Brexit will not affect the “special relationship” after all, even as he lost his trans-Atlantic partner, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who tendered his resignation. Meanwhile, Leave supporter Boris Johnson, a colorful upper-crust Conservative who has drawn comparisons to Trump, emerged as the leading candidate to take Cameron’s place.
Obama sought to reassure, saying he recognized that “the people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision,” but the special relationship would remain unchanged. It was left to Vice President Joe Biden to express the White House’s dismay, acknowledging during his Ireland trip that the U.S. had “preferred a different outcome.”
“I do think that yesterday’s vote speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalization, the president said later at a forum at Stanford University, in his only allusion so far to the sort of populist rage represented by Trump and the Brexit movement.
Clinton, meanwhile, went on the attack, telling American voters that the Brexit vote “only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests” — an unmistakable shot at Trump and a reminder of her experience as secretary of state.
“It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down,” she added for good measure.
And Clinton sought to reinforce her economic message aimed at “everyday Americans,” arguing that the “first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America.”
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