President Barack Obama answers questions press conference at the White house on Tuesday. Obama called Republican Donald Trump "woefully unprepared to hold this office." Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama issued one of his harshest denunciations of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to date, saying he is "unfit" to be president and other members of his party should publicly disavow their support for him.
Obama's call on GOP leadership came on the same day the first sitting Republican congressman announced he will cross party lines to vote for Hillary Clinton, citing, in part, Trump's feud with a Muslim military family whose son was killed fighting in Iraq.
Obama pointed to the harsh exchange between Trump and a Muslim couple whose son was killed fighting in Iraq as another in a growing list of controversial comments from Trump that have caused many of his fellow Republicans to issue public denunciations.
"This isn't a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily," Obama said. "There has to be a point at which you say, this is not somebody I can support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party. The fact that that has not yet happened makes some of these denunciations ring hollow."
Trump has engaged in a days-long heated exchange with the parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed serving in combat in Iraq in 2005. Khizr Khan, the soldier's father, delivered a rebuke of Trump's plan to ban some Muslims from immigrating to the United States and the candidate's own lack of military service.
"You have sacrificed nothing and no one," Khan said at the close of a speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.
In response, Trump questioned why the soldier's mother, Ghazala Khan, who stood silently next to her husband during the speech, did not speak.
"If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably -- maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me," Trump said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday.
Some interpreted Trump's response as questioning whether it was because Ghazala Khan was required to be subservient to her husband, a tenant practiced by some traditionalist Muslims. Ghazala Khan responded in a Washington Post op-ed, saying her silence was because she becomes too emotional while speaking of her son's death in public, not because she was prohibited from talking.
"Please. I am very upset when I heard when he said that I didn't say anything. I was in pain. If you were in pain, you fight or you don't say anything. I'm not a fighter. I can't fight. So the best thing I do was quiet," she said.
A number of top Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump in the wake of his criticism of the Khans. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said gold star families -- the military's term for a family that lost a loved one in combat -- should be "off limits" from criticism. Trump's own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, offered praise of the Khans in a statement and reaffirmed their right to speak out during a rally in Carson City, Nev., on Monday.
Pence was challenged over Trump's statements by a military mother in the audience at the rally during a question-and-answer session. The woman's question was met with boos from the audience, though Pence hushed the crowd, saying the question was fair. He reaffirmed Trump's support for military families.
Trump himself underscored that message Tuesday while holding a rally in Virginia. At the gathering, Trump accepted a Purple Heart medal from a Vietnam veteran who said he trusted Trump to be the nation's commander-in-chief.
For the person presently holding that title, the analysis was very different. Obama, speaking at a White House press conference Tuesday, questioned why Republican leaders who have repeatedly expressed significant differences with the candidate over his controversial statements on race, gender and religion, have not withdrawn their support.
"The question they have to ask themselves is: If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?" Obama asked, calling Trump "woefully unprepared to do this job."
One member of Trump's party arrived at the same conclusion Tuesday.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., wrote an op-ed published by Syracuse.com, saying he will vote for Clinton in the fall because he does not believe Trump is worthy of becoming president.
Hanna called Trump "profoundly offensive and narcissistic."
"If I compare the life stories of both candidates I find Trump deeply flawed in endless ways," Hanna wrote.
Hanna said Trump's comments about the Khans was the last in a line of incidents that led him to endorse Clinton. Hanna, who is retiring at the end of the year after three terms in Congress, had previously refused to endorse Trump but had stopped short of supporting Clinton.
"I saw that and felt incensed," Hanna said in an interview. "I was stunned by the callousness of his comments."
He added, "I think Trump is a national embarrassment. Is he really the guy you want to have the nuclear codes?"