Saying that Americans “deserve better,” President Barack Obama offered his most extensive comments on the 2016 Republican field on Monday, accusing candidates like Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump of using rhetoric “that would be considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad.”
During a press conference in Ethiopia, Obama slammed Huckabee for saying that the Iran nuclear deal “is marching Israelis to the door of the oven.” And he accused GOP critics of violating a rule in American politics that “we don't play fast and loose” on important foreign policy issues.
“The American people deserve better,” he said. “Certainly presidential debates deserve better."
Obama referenced Huckabee and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump by name and also criticized Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for comparing top Iran negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry to Pontius Pilate.
“We have robust debates, look at the facts,” he said. “There are going to be disagreements but we don't just fling out ad hominem attacks like that because it doesn't help inform the American people.”
The president suggested that Huckabee made the “oven” comments in the effort to push Trump out of the headlines.
“"It's not the kind of leadership that's needed for America right now," he said.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also weighed in on Huckabee's comments Monday, saying that they have "no place in our political dialogue."
"I’m disappointed and I’m really offended personally. I know Gov. Huckabee, I have a cordial relationship with him, he served as the governor of Arkansas, but I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable," she said.
Huckabee shot back at Obama on Monday morning, saying he’s not backing down from his comments on the Iran deal.
“What's ridiculous and sad is that President Obama does not take the Iran threats seriously,” he said in a statement. “For decades, Iranian leaders have pledged to ‘destroy,’ ‘annihilate,’ and ‘wipe Israel off the map’ with a ‘big Holocaust.' 'Never again' will be the policy of my administration and I will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.”