At the conclusion of this week’s G7 summit, President Obama held a brief press conference to give reporters a chance to ask him some questions, and the rest of the media a chance to lie about his answers. President Obama covered a lot of ground in the 35-minute presser, and to hear some media outlets tell it, that ground included confessing that the United States doesn’t “yet have a complete strategy” for fighting ISIS. Several outlets, including the ostensibly liberal TalkingPointsMemo, tweeted out headlines to that effect, while similar coverage could be found on cable news:
“President Obama admitting once again he doesn’t have a complete strategy to beat ISIS.”
Wow, what a gaffe! Not only does President Obama have no complete strategy to beat ISIS, the dummy just came out and admitted it! Right on TV!
As Wolf Blitzer observed, that phrase could “come back to haunt” President Obama, if by “come back to haunt,” you mean “be blatantly and baldly lied about.” Here’s what President Obama actually said:
“So one of the areas where we’re going to have to improve is the speed at which we’re training Iraqi forces. Where we’ve trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them, and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively. Where we haven’t, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces. So we want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused. And President Abadi wants the same thing.
“So we’re reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that, essentially accelerating the number of Iraqi forces that are properly trained and equipped and have a focused strategy and good leadership. And when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people. We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. And so the details of that are not yet worked out.”
As honest reporters like Jake Tapper immediately noted, President Obama wasn’t referring to overall ISIS strategy, or even to a strategy for fighting ISIS, but to the specific matter of accelerating the training and equipping that we’re already doing. Even those pulling that quote with some meager context are misleading, though, because the deficiency that Obama identified was not in US strategy, but in Iraqi commitment. At lest those folks are technically accurate.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the exact same thing happened almost a year ago, when President Obama delivered his infamous tan-suited presser, and was asked specifically about military incursions into Syria:
“But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are. And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military as well.”
After that August press conference, it wasn’t just the likes of Fox News and TPM who seized on that quote, but also the good folks at liberal MSNBC, who jumped on it literally seconds after President Obama left the briefing room:
Makes you wonder why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton isn’t anxious to do more press conferences, doesn’t it?