By Yeganeh Torbati
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, his vice president and defense secretary took aim on Monday at policies of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump they said would alienate Muslims globally along with U.S. allies and neighbors.
In a speech focusing on national security at a think tank in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said Trump’s calls to bar the entry of Muslims and to profile Muslim Americans reflected the politics of fear and intolerance.
“There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world” Biden said. “Some of the rhetoric I’m hearing sounds designed to radicalize all 1.4 billion.”
Biden’s attacks on Trump as an isolationist, and others by Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter represent an unusually early and vigorous assault on an opposing party’s presidential nominee. The election is on Nov. 8.
Referring to Trump’s vow to erect a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico if elected, Biden said that the most complex threats do not respect borders and a wall would destroy much of the progress the Obama administration had made with U.S. neighbors.
“If we build walls and disrespect our neighbors, we will quickly see all this progress evaporating, replaced by a return of anti-Americanism, a corrosive rift throughout our hemisphere,” Biden said.
OBAMA, CARTER JOIN FRAY
Obama, who last week assailed Trump for what he called a “dangerous” mindset and “loose talk and sloppiness” in defining the country’s enemies, on Monday criticized Trump’s anti-trade policies in a speech at a U.S. Commerce Department conference.
“This is not just about jobs and trade, it’s not just about hard, cold cash.It’s also about building relationships across borders,” Obama told the 2,400 people from 70 countries at the conference to attract foreign investment.
Trump has threatened to impose steep tariffs on Chinese and Mexican imports and demanded a change in a U.S. trade policy he says allows other countries to shut out U.S imports, devalue their currencies and unfairly target U.S. industries.
Speaking at the same event as Biden, Carter said a critical part of U.S. leadership is its “longtime network of allies and partners in every corner of the world.”
“Our allies around the world have stood with us – and fought with us – time and again, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against ISIL,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Carter did not mention Trump, who has called NATO “obsolete” and said he would consider letting Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear weapons rather than relying on the United States for protection against North Korea and China.While Obama, Carter and other top officials generally have refrained from attacking Trump by name, Obama administration spokesmen have not denied that such remarks are directed at the presumptive Republican candidate.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and John Walcott in Washington; Editing by John Walcott and Howard Goller)