The president often seems to inhabit a parallel political universe — one in which his foreign policy is a great success, bad actors are all on the wrong side of history, Israel is the fly in the ointment, and he’s ending wars. Naturally in such circumstances, he believes that “saturation of news about the horrible attack” in Paris is responsible for the public’s concern about terrorism. President Obama scoffed yesterday, “And as a consequence, if you’ve been watching television for the last month, all you’ve been seeing, all you’ve been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you, so I understand why people are concerned about it.” He continued to blame the media, saying, “This is a legitimate news story. I think that, you know, it’s up to the media to make a determination about how they want to cover things.”
It’s remarkable really. We had a massive terror attack in Paris, another in San Bernardino, Calif., and yet the problem is the media covering the story. No wonder he sees no real need to change our approach to fighting the Islamic State. Everything, as Hillary Clinton said in the debate, is where we want it to be — people are just hysterical. You do wonder if fellow Democrats cringe when they hear that sort of thing. Essentially the president is saying he thinks the American people are hysterical, misinformed or both. Don’t they know his foreign policy is a big success?!
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is quickly becoming the de facto leader of the party, reamed the president. “Let’s put aside for a moment that members of the president’s own party – from Sen. Dianne Feinstein to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta – are questioning the president’s strategy. (They fell for a media narrative too?),” he said in a written statement. He went on to blast Obama for repeatedly “blaming poor communication for America’s discontent rather than the failed policies themselves.” His statement concluded, “When we passed a law requiring the president to present a plan to defeat ISIS, we weren’t talking about a communications plan. We need a comprehensive plan to destroy this enemy and protect our homeland.”
The public’s alarm, by the way, seems entirely in sync with Republican and Democratic lawmakers who say the threat level has never been higher. The president however remains serene, if not cavalier, about the whole thing.
Other Republicans blasted the president as well. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on “Fox and Friends” that the president’s remarks were “another example of how this president misunderstands, just doesn’t understand the threat that we’re facing.” Campaigning in New Hampshire New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie mocked Obama for saying that “cable news gives too much coverage to terrorism and that’s what’s making people nervous and that really he said his only problem is that he needs a better PR strategy.” Christie wisecracked, “I’ve got a great strategy for the president of the United States. Ok? There’s 13 months to go, do us a favor start packing now.”
Obama’s interview remarks and Clinton’s debate comments don’t even raise eyebrows with the Democratic base. But in a general election context voters may be astonished — and insulted — to hear their fear about additional terror attacks described that way. Having made shambles of Middle East policy, allowed the Islamic State to take root and metastasize, countenanced a Syrian civil war that has killed a quarter of a million people, and presided over multiple terrorist attacks on U.S. soil (Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Chattanooga) it’s understandable the president would not want to acknowledge he has made the United States less safe. That does not mean the voters have to share his delusion.