As a psychological matter, President Obama’s approach to defending the integrity of our elections from Donald Trump—and to getting Trump to shift his focus from fictitious election-rigging allegations to less dangerous attacks—is probably the right one.
“I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented,” Obama said Tuesday during a Rose Garden news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “It doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you’d want out of a president. You start whining before the game’s even over? When things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming someone else? Then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.... I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining, and go try to make his case to get votes.”
As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes, the Clinton campaign’s more cautious approach is meant to counterbalance Trump’s: Create an air of calm, so people aren’t intimidated out of going to the polls. But as the current president, and the most popular and trusted politician in the country, Obama’s scolding and taunting serves both to restore as much faith as possible in the system and to make Trump look petty and weak. This will resonate widely both because it’s so evidently true and because it’s likely to set Trump off on a new round of anti-Obama conniptions.
It’s just extraordinary and depressing that the current president has to defend the integrity of our elections from a Republican nominee with mind games meant to cause Trump narcissistic injury, and that Republican leaders, who all support Trump, don’t find this state of affairs alarming enough to speak up themselves.