Tonight, President Obama gave a brief address from the Oval Office on the San Bernardino terrorist attack. I am pretty sure he went on television because the Democratic Party’s polling showed that his initial equivocations about workplace violence and gun control were deeply unpopular with American voters.
So what did he say? If you didn’t watch it, you can read the transcript here. The salient point, I think, is that Obama told us that everything we are doing is going just great, and he isn’t going to change a thing–at least, not anything that matters.
Obama bragged about the fact that we are bombing ISIS, but didn’t mention that because of our ridiculous rules of engagement, 75% of our aircraft return to base without dropping a bomb or firing a shot. As to this nothing, apparently, will change.
Obama said we are training Iraqi and Syrian fighters, but didn’t mention that we have trained only a handful of Syrians at an enormous cost, and most of them are likely dead. Again, nothing will change.
Obama said that we will continue to deploy a handful of special ops to act against ISIS, but their numbers, evidently, will not increase.
Above all, Obama promised that he will not change his policy of sending no significant number of ground troops to Iraq or Syria–the policy that gave rise to ISIS, as Obama prematurely withdrew the American troops that were maintaining order in Iraq.
Obama also vowed that our present policy of admitting large numbers of Muslim immigrants from various Middle Eastern countries must not change.
Obama did suggest that some things should be done differently. Specifically, we should have more gun control laws. He just can’t help himself. Obama offered two specific proposals. The first was that persons on the suspected terrorist no-fly list should not be allowed to buy firearms. Superficially, this has appeal, even though I am not aware of a single terrorist attack involving firearms that has ever been perpetrated by someone on the no-fly list.
The problem with the no-fly list is that it is terrible. Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik weren’t on it, but Ted Kennedy and Steve Hayes were. The Free Beacon tells us that 72 employees of the Department of Homeland Security are currently on the terrorist watch list. Why haven’t they all been fired before now? Presumably DHS would tell us that it’s all a mistake, the list means nothing, these people are innocents…like Ted Kennedy, Steve Hayes and many others who have been put on the list by a bureaucrat, with no due process, because their names somehow resemble those of suspected terrorists.
Obama’s second gun control proposal was to re-institute the failed “assault weapons” ban of 1994. We have written about this many times, and I won’t rehash the arguments here. Suffice it to say that no one takes this seriously as an anti-terrorism measure.
That is what Obama said. What should he have said? At a minimum, the following:
1) In the battle against ISIS, we will lead rather than follow from behind. From now on, the rules of engagement will be made realistic so that our missions will not be 75% futile. Further, those missions will increase in number and in lethality.
2) We will send additional ground troops to the Middle East, consistent with recommendations from our military leaders, so that we can crush ISIS on the ground, where it counts.
3) Banning bulk collection of telephone metadata by the National Security Agency was a mistake. I will work with Congress to re-establish the NSA program, which for something like 13 years helped to keep us safe from terrorist attacks.
4) I will exercise my executive authority under INA § 212(f), which provides:
(f)Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. …
Pursuant to this authority, I hereby suspend the entry of all persons from majority-Islamic countries into the United States, until further notice. The only exceptions to this order are Christians or others who are refugees from religious persecution in Islamic-majority countries.
That is what Obama should have said. But he didn’t, and everyone will understand that his address tonight means that business as usual will continue.