President Barack Obama took apparent shots at Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the final State of the Union speech of his presidency, according to his prepared remarks.
Obama spent part of his speech discussing America’s fight against the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). After outlining what the US is doing to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he said that “instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world ,” including the Middle East, among other regions.
“Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees,” Obama said, according to those prepared remarks.
“The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.”
That called to mind Cruz advocating “carpet bombing” ISIS “into oblivion.” Experts have cast serious doubt on this strategy, cautioning that it’s imprecise and has the likely potential to kill innocent civilians.
Obama also denounced insults to Muslims, an implicit reference to the rhetoric most bombastically pronounced by Trump, who has proposed to temporarily bar all Muslims from travelling to the US.
“When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalised, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer,” Obama said. “That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.”
That wasn’t Obama’s only implicit shot at Trump. The real-estate mogul has campaigned on the slogan “Make America Great Again” and often talked about how America is losing power and needs to start “winning” again.
“The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period,” Obama said.
“It’s not even close,” he added, repeating that phrase several times.
He continued: “We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.”
Obama also might have been referencing Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie with comments about World War III, noting that “over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into [ISIS’] hands.” Christie said in December that we’re “already in World War III.”
For his part, Trump called the speech “boring”: