Sept. 10: Declining to take the bait
At a rally opposing the president’s deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Trump twice asserted that the country was led by “very, very stupid people.”
“Any reaction to that?” a reporter asked Earnest at the next day’s briefing.
“No,” he replied simply, to laughter from the press corps.
Sept. 15: A “sick message” of xenophobia
The first White House official to speak candidly on Trump was, unsurprisingly, the notoriously unfiltered vice president, Joe Biden. As Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric—accusing those from Mexico of being rapists and calling to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country—swelled, Biden bluntly maligned the GOP front-runner to a group of Latinos gathered at his home.
“There's one guy absolutely denigrating an entire group of people, appealing to the baser side of human nature, working on this notion of xenophobia in a way that hasn't occurred in a long time.
"This isn't about Democrat-Republican. It's about a sick message,” Biden continued. “This message has been tried on America many times before. We always, always, always, always overcome.”
Sept. 16: Getting under Obama’s skin
The next day, it appeared that Trump was getting to Obama, too.
“In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible,” Obama lamented at the Business Roundtable headquarters in Washington. Presidential candidates “don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive, but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.”
And, rebuffing Trump’s controversial slogan, “Make America Great Again,” the president insisted, “American is great right now. America is winning right now.”
Sept. 18: The rest of the GOP field is just as bad
As Trump’s perch atop the GOP primary pack crystallized, the press secretary shifted tactics: Rather than stay above the fray, he wove a common thread between Trump and the rest of the Republican contenders. When queried about Trump’s failure to correct a man who called the president a Muslim, Earnest recalled other Republicans who had questioned Obama’s Christian faith and U.S. citizenship.
“Mr. Trump isn’t the first Republican politician to countenance these kinds of views in order to win votes,” Earnest told reporters. “In fact, that’s precisely what every Republican presidential candidate is doing when they declined to denounce Mr. Trump’s cynical strategy, because they’re looking for those same votes.”
Nov. 3: Bringing up the bankruptcy
A successful businessman, Trump was taken seriously in some quarters when he claimed that Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was keeping interest rates low for political reasons. “That's an economic observation made by someone who at least tells the country he has some experience in real estate,” a reporter noted to Earnest at the press briefing.