President Obama criticized recent comments made by 2016 Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, saying their statements come out of "a culture where those kind of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace."
At a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopa, the president was asked to respond to a weekend allegation by Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, that the Iran nuclear deal his administration had negotiated would "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven," an apparent reference to the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps.
The president said Huckabee's comments were "part of just a general pattern that we've seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad."
"Maybe this is just to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines but it's not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now," he added. He also pointed back to Trump's remarks deriding the war record of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and said, "The Republican party is shocked and yet that arises out of a culture where those kind of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and yet circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets."
Plus, the president added, when "outrageous statements like that" are made about him, the same people who were outraged by what Trump said about McCain were "pretty quiet."
"We are creating a culture that is not conducive to good policy or good politics. The American people deserve better. Certainly presidential debates deserve better," Mr. Obama said.
Asked to grade the administration's efforts selling the Iran deal to Congress, Mr. Obama argued that his administration wasn't lobbying for the deal but rather preventing facts about it to Congress.
"I have not yet heard a factual argument on the other side that holds up to scrutiny. There's a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks this is a good deal. It's because it's a good deal," he said. "So if you're asking me how do you think our argument's going, its going great."
He did, however, say that the politics of Washington and rhetoric around the deal "doesn't always go great."
The president likened Huckabee's comments about the Iran deal to other Republican rhetoric, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton comparing Secretary of State John Kerry to Pontius Pilate. He alluded to another Republican senator -- Texas' Ted Cruz, who went unnamed -- who has said that the president and Kerry would become "the leading global financiers of radical Islamic terrorism."
"These are leaders in the Republican Party," the president said. "Part of what historically has made America great is particularly when it comes to foreign policy, there's been a recognition that these issues are too serious, that issues of war and peace are of such grave concern, of such consequence, that we don't play fast and loose that way."