Since President Obama’s speech to the nation last week, the administration has been putting together the international coalition that will “degrade and destroy” ISIS. Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer that, without announcing specifics, there are already partner nations “prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States,” and several State Department sources confirmed that “a lot of (Arab states)” have offered airstrikes. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also made the rounds, and hinted at contributions of ground forces. On Monday, thirty nations from the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq pledged to help fight ISIS. The release of a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines has all but assured greater military assistance from the United Kingdom. On Friday, Kerry will chair a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq, and next week, Obama will meet with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
None of this, however, is proceeding satisfactorily for Fox News’ Ed Henry, who asked, on Monday afternoon, if the effort at building a coalition is a “failure.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest had just finished explaining to NBC’s Kristen Welker that although progress has been made in the formation of the coalition, he was unable to make specific announcements naming the countries, or the type of assistance, because such announcements ought to be left to the governments of those nations.
“What, then, is holding these Sunni nations back?” Henry asked, to which a confused Earnest replied, “I don’t think that there’s anything holding them back,” and promised that there would be announcements forthcoming.
Given that it has been five whole days since Obama’s speech, and the White House is unprepared to undercut the governments of foreign allies with unscheduled public announcements, Henry naturally concludes that this is a “failure”:
“Is this not a failure for Secretary Kerry to not get this coalition together?”
While Earnest replied that the coalition is “coming together very nicely,” it would appear that Fox News is doing so prematurely. As much fun as it is for conservatives to root for the president to fail, even in the face of a threat to our country, you can’t holler, “Strike three!” while the pitcher is still in his windup.
As it turns out, though, Henry’s flirtation with failure did manage to jar loose something resembling news Josh Earnest, who again explained that just because someone’s not ready to tell Ed Henry something doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, and referred to other public statements of support from Arab nations. “I would anticipate that, as we get closer to the U.N. General Assembly,” Earnest added, “we’ll have some more details about the commitments that are being made.”
Kerry also made some news by telling Schieffer that, while the United States would not be coordinating with the Syrian government on airstrikes against ISIS in Syria: “We will certainly want to deconflict to make certain that they’re not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously.”
That phrase was clarified, somewhat, by a State Department official to mean that Syria would, in some fashion, be aware of, and warned not to interfere with, any such U.S. operations, but without, repeat without coordination.
Henry tried to get a little more clarification on this portion of Kerry’s interview, and Earnest’s response was, at once, verbose and pointed, given the extraordinary powers that the president has already made plain he will exercise, absent any oversight from Congress:
“Yes, Ed, if Syria messes with any of our airstrikes, we will light them the fuck up.” (this is a slight paraphrase)
Throughout this latest conflict, the White House has not been subtle about its willingness to exert the full weight of the president’s war powers, which was the point of Earnest’s review of recent history. The president, according to this White House, has the authority to order airstrikes and ground operations against ISIS in Syria, and now, if the need arises, to strike Syrian government forces as well. This is a lot of power to place in the hands of a president you trust, let alone one you don’t.