In 2014, President Obama made a comment to the New Yorker that would come back to haunt him in a big way. Asked about the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, Obama said there was no reason to worry about the group turning into the next Al Qaeda.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” he said at the time.
Everyone got a jolly old laugh out of that one, but things weren’t quite so funny when that JV team started launching major terrorist attacks around the world. No one was laughing when they began taking over enormous swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria while bombarding the internet with videos of gruesome beheadings and barbaric mass executions.
In a CNN interview this week, Obama appeared to still be in denial as to whether he bore any responsibility for the rise of ISIS.
“Let me ask you if it’s possible in your position to be completely honest and say the rise of the Islamic State surprised you, it took you by surprise, it took the administration by surprise,” asked CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
“The ability of ISIL to not just mass inside of Syria, but then to initiate major land offensives that took Mosul, for example, that was not on my intelligence radar screen,” Obama replied.
This answer is not new for the president. As Mediaite pointed out, Obama used the same excuse in 2014 when asked about ISIS on 60 Minutes.
“Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said then.
In other words, we’re a long way from “the buck stops here.” But we knew that already.
Obama’s remarks incensed Meghan McCain, who said on Fox News that Obama was “shameless” to blame the intelligence community for his failings. McCain insisted that ISIS had been part of Obama’s daily briefings for at least a year before they began conquering territory for their caliphate.
“I don’t know if it’s spin to save his legacy or if it’s actual delusion,” McCain said. “I don’t understand how he could possibly think it wasn’t going to happen.”
It’s probably a bit of both. Anyone would search for ways to alleviate their conscience if they allowed this kind of brutality to grow unchecked. And he certainly doesn’t want his legacy to be about the absolute disaster his policies have created in the Middle East. No, no, all that was there when he arrived. Or it was bad intelligence. Or no, it was Hillary. Or Russia.
He thought that once Bin Laden was dead, he could ride off into the sunset with George W. Bush’s cowboy hat perched on his head. He dusted off his hands and set his mind to finally earning that Nobel Peace Prize by declaring the war on terror over. And that foolishness gave ISIS the space it needed to become the menace it is today.
Hopefully, we will soon have a president who won’t run from reality.