Trump Time Capsule #67: 'Unfit'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The incumbent President of the United States said today that one of the two possibilities to succeed him is “unfit to serve as president” and is “woefully unprepared” to do the job. You can see Barack Obama’s comments starting around time 13:00 in the C-Span clip below, from his press conference this morning with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong.

To the best of my knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened before.

Presidents of one party call nominees from the other party “bad choices” or “wrong for America” or “risky bets” or in some other way second-best options to their own preferred candidate.

As far as I am aware, none of them has previously declared a major-party nominee categorically unfit.

Again we have two possibilities. Either Barack Obama, with a career’s worth of hyper-deliberate careful phrasing behind him, has suddenly made a lurch toward hyperbole. Or Donald Trump does in fact merit classification in an unfit category of his own.

Obviously I believe the latter is the truth. We’ll get to the pushback and ramifications in subsequent installments, including President Obama’s question to the Republican leaders who “rebuke” Trump but still support him: “What does it say about your party, that this is your standard bearer?”

For now, this is one more for-the-record note of how Campaign 2016 has crossed one more previously unexplored frontier.