Three Ring Circus

And the tone of that politics — which I certainly have not contributed to — I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example. I don’t remember saying, hey, why don’t you ask me about that. (Laughter.) Or why don’t you question whether I’m American, or whether I’m loyal, or whether I have America’s best interests at heart — those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine.

And so what you’re seeing within the Republican Party is, to some degree, all those efforts over a course of time creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive. He’s just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.

And, in fact, in terms of his positions on a whole range of issues, they’re not very different from any of the other candidates. It’s not as if there’s a massive difference between Mr. Trump’s position on immigration and Mr. Cruz’s position on immigration. Mr. Trump might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it, but the actual positions aren’t that different. For that matter, they’re not that different from Mr. Rubio’s positions on immigration — despite the fact that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, their own families are the products of immigration and the openness of our society.

So I am more than happy to own the responsibility as President, as the only office holder who was elected by all the American people, to continue to make efforts to bridge divides and help us find common ground. As I’ve said before, I think that common ground exists all across the country. You see it every day in how people work together and live together and play together and raise their kids together. But what I’m not going to do is to validate some notion that the Republican crack-up that’s been taking place is a consequence of actions that I’ve taken.

And what’s interesting — I’ll just say one last thing about this — there are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party. I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing to transpire, and to do some introspection.

Because, ultimately, I want an effective Republican Party. I think this country has to have responsible parties that can govern, and that are prepared to lead and govern whether they’re in the minority or in the majority, whether they occupy the White House or they do not. And I’ve often said I want a serious, effective Republican Party — in part to challenge some of the blind spots and dogmas in the Democratic Party. I think that’s useful.

President Barack Obama in response to a question from reporter Margaret Brennan

Some Things Never Go Out of Style

The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country — that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

Richard Hofstadter: The Paranoid Style in American Politics