Obama Criticizes GOP Convention Themes on Crime, Immigration

Mexican president takes high road after delegates chanted 'build that wall'

Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto (left), and U.S. President Barack Obama meet during a North American leaders' summit last month in Canada. The duo met Friday at the White House. (Photo via Flickr)

President Barack Obama on Friday took umbrage with themes voiced during the Republican National Convention, arguing the country is not plagued by widespread violence and warning against trade wars.  

The comments came after GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump used his acceptance speech to promise Americans he would stop what he called “violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities.”  

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Trump ticked off statistics, but didn't cite sources, to support his contention that homicide, police officer shootings and illegal immigration rates have risen while Obama was in office.  

Not so, the president said Friday during a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.  

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“The idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse,” Obama said, “doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people.”  

Trump on Thursday night vowed to build not just a wall, but a "great" one along America's southern border. As he talked about his anti-immigration plans, and at other points during the four-night convention, delegates loudly chanted "build that wall!"  

He said homicide and violent crime rates and the flow of illegal immigrants are down on his watch, with some rates lower than when conservative icon Ronald Reagan was president in the 1980s.  

Obama said the message, based on “fears” expressed in Cleveland, don’t match the communities most Americans woke up to Friday morning. Most Americans heard “birds chirping” and “are getting ready for the weekend,” the president said.  

On trade, Trump vowed to renegotiate the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and avoid other massive deals involving more than one other country. His acceptance speech included a promise of “a new, fair trade policy that protects our jobs and stands up to countries that cheat.  

“It’s been a signature message of my campaign from day one, and it will be a signature feature of my presidency from the moment I take the oath of office,” Trump pledged.  

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But Obama warned against starting “trade wars,” saying such squabbles would hurt American businesses and workers. For instance, a barter fight with Mexico would harm U.S. auto industry firms because they rely on Mexican companies for some supplies.  

Pena Nieto declined to address Trump’s vows to erect a border wall. He said it is up to the American people to pick their new “male or female president.” Whether that is Trump or likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, America’s next leader will “find a strategic partner” in Mexico City, he said.  

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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