John did a great job of ripping President Obama’s pathetic musings on terrorism, as served up to Matthew Yglesias of Vox.com. I want to focus on Obama’s claim that the media “absolutely” sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism.
Obama offered no evidence to support this claim. He merely asserted it, adding that he doesn’t blame the media for following the “the famous saying. . .if it bleeds, it leads.” That’s big of him.
But in what instances does Obama believe the media gave inordinate coverage to terrorist blood-letting? ISIS’s beheading of hostages? The murders at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher deli in Paris?
Does Obama believe that leading with these stories on the nightly news is the equivalent of local news programs “show[ing] crime stories and. . .fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings”? Does he think the media should not have reported the warning by the head of British intelligence that ISIS is actively planning attacks intended to inflict mass casualties on the West? Does he fault the media for reporting his then-Defense Secretary’s statement that the threat posed by ISIS is “beyond anything we’ve seen.”
The answer to these questions, I think, is “yes” (the president couldn’t be bothered to show up for the “je suis Charlier” march in Paris or to postpone his round of golf after the beheading of James Foley), but Obama won’t come out and say it. Instead, he backs off, acknowledging that “it is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly [huh?] shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
If it’s legitimate for Americans to be deeply concerned about these stories, then it’s illegitimate of their president to complain that the stories receive full coverage from the media.
The fact is that Obama has consistently downplayed the threat posed by terrorists, only to be promptly and spectacularly discredited by events. A little over year ago, he called ISIS “the jayvee.” Not long thereafter, ISIS controlled territory in Syria and Iraq the size of Belgium, if not the United Kingdom, and Obama deployed substantial (albeit grossly insufficient) U.S. military assets to combat the jayvee.
Iraq and Syria aren’t the only hot spots in which Obama has been mugged by reality. In the speech announcing his decision finally to take on ISIS, Obama touted America’s success in “taking the fight” to al Qaeda in Yemen. Even as he spoke, the situation in Yemen was deteriorating, leaving our ability to “take the fight” to al Qaeda in serious doubt.
Obama, then, has no standing to opine on whether the media is “overstating” the threat posed by terrorism. Nor, as noted, does he offer any evidence that supports the view that it’s doing so.
The media dutifully reports (1) Obama’s assessments of the terrorist threat and (2) terrorist events and successes. The juxtaposition isn’t flattering to Obama, but that’s not the media’s fault.