Speaking to a group of soldiers and their families at Fort Lee in Virginia—along with CNN viewers—President Obama had to be careful to not get too partisan on Wednesday, night, even as he answered highly political questions about the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the role of women in the military, and strategies for defeating ISIL.
Since the talk took place on a military installation, Obama was not allowed to engage in electioneering. But he did use a question about his refusal to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” to take a jab at the Republican nominee.
Obama made the standard arguments: that it’s wrong to cede the title of Islam to violent extremists like ISIL, and that the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” insults Muslim-Americans and antagonizes many allies America needs in the Islamic world. But he also alluded to the current election, noting “the danger” of someone “aspiring to be president” using loose language that “betrays our ideals.”
When host Jake Tapper asked Obama if he meant Donald Trump, Obama backed away from the partisan edge and denied it, saying “there have been a number of public figures” who have done “commentary that is dangerous.”