TOKYO – President Barack Obama at press conference Thursday from the G-7 summit in Japan, urged the Democrats to focus attacks less on each other than on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump as he called for a primary process that smooths over discord between the two sides by the partyâ€™s convention in July.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders need â€œto try to end this in a way that leaves both sides feeling proud of what theyâ€™ve doneâ€ and to â€œstick to the issues,â€ he said.
Mr. Obama also delivered some of his sharpest criticism yet of Mr. Trump, saying world leaders at the summit in Japan told him they were â€œsurprisedâ€ and â€œrattledâ€ by the GOP nominee.
â€œThey are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements, but theyâ€™re rattled by him, and for good reason,â€ he said at a news conference on the sidelines of the summit.
“The world pays attention to U.S. elections,” Obama said. “They pay more attention to our elections sometimes than we pay to theirs. The U.S. is … at the heart of the international order and even those countries that are critical of us…know that ultimately things don’t hold together so well if the U.S. isn’t making good decisions and they count on us to provide stability when making global decisions.”
Mr. Obama said Mr. Trumpâ€™s foreign-policy proposals so far â€œdisplay either ignorance over world affairs, or a cavalier attitude, or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through whatâ€™s required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous.â€
Mr. Obama made the comments after a day of meetings with the leaders of Japan, France, Germany, the U.K., Canada and Italy.
The presidentâ€™s advice to the Democratic candidates was his clearest attempt yet to shape the process. It comes at a time when White House officials are increasingly nervous that the longer the primary season plays out the harder it gets to unify the party and defeat Mr. Trump in November.
Officials have also privately expressed concern over the tone of the primary, with Mr. Sanders vowing to take the race to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and endorsing the primary opponent of party chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
Mr. Obama compared the effort to unify the party to divisions between his and Mrs. Clintonâ€™s campaigns in 2008. It is a process he has said he would play a key role in facilitating, and Mr. Obamaâ€™s aides say he is eager to get on the campaign trail.
On ThursdayÂ Mr. Obama said he was confident Democrats will be able to rally around a unified vision by the time of the convention.
â€œDuring primaries people get a little grumpy with each other,â€ Mr. Obama said.
â€œI would urge and have urged both sides to try to stick to the issues because a lot of that grumpiness arises where folks feel weâ€™re not talking about an issue but weâ€™re talking about personalities and character,â€ heÂ added.
â€œI guarantee you that the eventual nominee sure wishes it was over now because this is a grind.â€
By Carol E. Lee,Â