President Obama appeared on Meet the Press this morning with new host Chuck Todd. The conversation focused primarily on ISIS, Iraq and Syria. Much could be said about Obama’s comments, but what struck me most was how disassociated from reality Obama appears to be–both when he defends his own record, and when he talks about foreign policy.
Obama repeated the spin, first floated by White House spokesman Josh Earnest, that when he talked dismissively of “jayvee” terrorist groups he wasn’t referring to ISIS:
CHUCK TODD: Long way, long way from when you described them as a JV team.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I–
CHUCK TODD: Was that bad intelligence or your misjudgment?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Keep– keep– keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL.
But he was, as Paul showed here. The only example of a “jayvee” terrorist group Obama gave was the one that took Fallujah. Who took Fallujah? ISIS. Obama knows this; he is simply lying to save his own skin.
Something similar happened when Todd asked Obama about the bad impression he conveyed when he headed straight to the first tee after saying a few words about the beheading of an American journalist. Obama put himself in the best possible light:
CHUCK TODD: I got to ask, so– so during that vacation, you made the statement on Foley. You went and golfed. Do you– do you want that back?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, it is always a challenge when you’re supposed to be on vacation. Because you’re followed everywhere. And part of what I’d love is a vacation from –the– the press and– and– because–Because the possibility of a jarring contrast given the world’s news, is always– there’s always going to be some tough news somewhere– is going to be there. But there’s no doubt that– after having talked to the families, where it was hard for me to hold back tears listening to the pain that they were going through, after the statement that I made, that you know, I should’ve anticipated the optics.
But part of this job is also the theatre of it. A part of it is, you know, how are you, how, how are you, well, it’s not something that– that always comes naturally to me. But it matters. And I’m mindful of that.
Obama went on to say what a great job he is doing on policy, even though “theater” doesn’t “come naturally to [him].” What a crock! Obama has always been about theater, and little else. What were the Greek columns if not theater? How about the silly Latin motto, “vero possumus,” on his fake presidential seal? How about healing the earth and making the oceans recede, or the election night extravaganza in Grant Park? Obama’s problem isn’t that he is no good at theater. His problem is that the time eventually comes when a president has to stop pretending and make decisions.
But this was all just spin. The air of unreality was just as dense when it counted the most, when Obama tried to explain his security policies. His plan for dealing with terrorism from the Middle East involves–no surprise here–“working smarter.” Smarter than whom? He doesn’t say. But this is what Obama calls “smart”:
We’re going to have to work smarter.
We’re going to have to train the military there more capably. We’ve got to do more effective diplomatic work to eliminate the schism between Sunni and Shia that has been fueling so much of the violence in Syria, in Iraq. And so we put together a plan that is compatible with the kind of work that we’re doing now.
Whoa! We are going to “eliminate the schism between Sunni and Shia”? The schism that goes back to the 7th Century? And we are going to “eliminate the schism” through diplomacy? Don’t hold your breath waiting for that critical part of Obama’s “plan” to bear fruit.
And what about Syria? What are we going to do while we are working on “eliminating” the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims (in Syria, better not forget the Alawites)? The answer is simple: help the Free Syrian Army.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And– and in Syria, the boots on the ground have to be Syrian. And that’s why–
CHUCK TODD: Who?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well we have a Free Syrian Army and a moderate opposition that we have steadily been working with but we have vetted. They have been on the defensive, not just from ISIL, but also from the Assad regime. And what– you know, if you recall, at the West Point speech that I gave, I said, we need to put more resources into the moderate opposition in part because, unless we have people we can work with who are Sunni in these Sunni regions, then we’re going to continue to have these problems.
But in terms of controlling territory, we’re going to have to develop a moderate Sunni opposition that can control territory and that we can work with.
Obama appears completely oblivious to the fact that others have been urging his administration to aid the moderate (i.e., non-terrorist) Syrian rebels for more than a year. The West Point speech that Obama referred to was delivered in June, three months ago. What has he done since then? For more than a year, Obama has dithered while first Assad, and then ISIS have crushed the relatively pro-Western elements.
And now Obama tells us that his brand-new “plan” for Syria is to do exactly what his critics have been urging since mid-2013. Only one problem: at this late date, there doesn’t appear to be much of a moderate opposition left to equip and support.
Does Obama seriously believe that our “diplomacy” can “eliminate” more than a millennium of conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or that we can now, magically, lend Syrian moderates such support that they will be able to overcome ISIS’s well-armed, lavishly funded and horrifically brutal army? Not to mention Assad’s forces? I don’t suppose so. I don’t think Obama means much of what he says, or that he expects his words to connect in any significant way with reality. His job is to utter the words. If reality refuses to conform, well then: so much the worse for reality.