President Obama lost his composure at Monday’s press conference at the G-20 Summit because reporters questioned him on whether he understands the threat that ISIS poses and whether his strategy has a chance of working. These weren’t the typical polite-but-tough questions the White House press corps asks President Obama. CNN’s Jim Acosta asked President Obama “Why can’t we take out these bastards?” Minutes later, Ron Allen of NBC asked “Do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?” A female reporter asked “Have you underestimated [ISIS’s] abilities?” Another reporter asked “If I could ask you to address your critics on your reluctance to get into another Middle East war makes the US weaker and emboldens our enemies?”
For his part, President Obama got increasingly irritated at the harsh line of questioning finally boiling over and responding “No we haven’t underestimated [their] abilities. There has been an acute awareness of the part of my administration from the start.” Later, he started over, scornfully saying “Let me try one last time—we have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack.”
Finally, he couldn’t help himself from launching a political attack on Republicans:
When you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things we’re already doing. Some of them seem to think that, if I was just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference. Because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.
That’s a dishonest statement of epic proportions. Republicans, including the GOP presidential candidates, haven’t called for an average of 7 sorties a day, which is the pace of the US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. They didn’t call for rules of engagement so tight that 75% of those sorties return without dropping a single bomb, either, which is what’s happening now. They haven’t insisted on arming the Kurds by routing the arms through Baghdad, either, which is what President Obama has done from the start of the military ‘campaign’ against ISIS. Republicans have insisted that those arms be flown directly into Kurdistan and given to the Peshmerga.
Finally and most importantly, Republicans’ primary objective is to kill as many ISIS terrorists as quickly as possible. Public bellicosity isn’t on their list of priorities. As for President Obama’s statement that he hasn’t seen a Republican strategy “that would make a real difference” against ISIS, it should be noted that President Obama’s strategy hasn’t made a real difference in destroying ISIS.
Seriously, President Obama called ISIS a JV team, suggesting that they weren’t capable of launching terrorist attacks inside Iraq, much less being capable of launching sophisticated terrorist attacks in Paris and other western cities. This notion that President Obama’s plans have been somewhat effective is dishonest spin. Going from not existing after President Bush’s surge to launching a sophisticated, multi-faceted attack on Paris in 5 years is a pretty dramatic transformation.