HONOLULU - President Obama, in a broadside against the leading Republican presidential candidate, says billionaire Donald Trump is "exploiting" the fears that working-class men in particular have about the economy and stagnant wages.
In a year-end interview with NPR News, Obama said demographic changes combined with the "economic stresses" people have been feeling because of the financial crisis, technology and globalization have made life harder for those who rely on a steady paycheck.
"Particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck," Obama said in the radio interview released Monday. "You combine those things and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear. Some of it justified but just misdirected."
"I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That's what he's exploiting during the course of his campaign," Obama said.
Trump has called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the U.S., and has made inflammatory comments about Hispanics and others.
Obama sat for the interview Thursday after returning from the National Counterterrorism Center, where he received a pre-holiday briefing on potential threats to the homeland. He said publicly after the briefing that his national security advisers had no specific, credible information suggesting a potential attack against the homeland. Obama left Washington on Friday for two weeks of vacation in his native Hawaii.
Obama told NPR News that criticism of his strategy to combat the Islamic State was warranted and that the administration's failure to keep the public informed about his strategy for countering the IS group has contributed to the public's fears that not enough is being done to protect them.
"I think that there is a legitimate criticism of what I've been doing and our administration has been doing in the sense that we haven't, you know, on a regular basis I think described all the work that we've been doing for more than a year now to defeat ISIL," Obama said, using an acronym for IS.
The group claimed responsibility for an attack in mid-November that killed 130 people in Paris.
U.S. authorities blamed the deaths of 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., earlier this month on a radicalized couple who pledged allegiance to an IS leader in a Facebook post after they had opened fire.
Both attacks heightened fears of terrorism and led to widespread criticism of Obama's response.
If people don't know about the thousands of airstrikes that have been launched against IS targets since August 2014, or aren't aware that towns in Iraq once controlled by the group have been retaken, "then they might feel as if there's not enough of a response," Obama said.