“I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary with me up here.”
—-White House Spokesman Josh Earnest, in response to a reporter’s question regarding the President’s definition of “victory” in the conflict with ISIS.
The statement itself is only slightly less outrageous than the fact that it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. I’m using Politico for the link, a slightly left-leaning political news website. The primary links on the web go to Fox (of course), RealClearPolitics, The Weekly Standard, PJ Media, the Washington Times, and The Blaze. No ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, or Daily Beast. There is no excuse for this. It is blatantly irresponsible, and terrible, biased, negligent journalism. Not only does the public have a right to know what the objectives are in Iraq, the public has a right to know how arrogant and incompetent its leadership is. I think Earnest’s performance provides a definitive answer: Very.
The President of the United States gave a nationally televised speech regarding the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria. This isn’t trivia; presumably the President doesn’t give speeches on trivia. Many human beings’ lives are at stake; Americans have had their heads carved off on YouTube by this organization in bloody defiance of U.S. power. As Obama stands poised to weaken the nation’s ability to control its own boarders even further by unilaterally eliminating penalties for breaking our immigration laws, there are credible reports of ISIS terrorists entering the United States. Citizens have been recruited to its cause.
So this is important, agreed? When the United States employs its military abroad, the President is obligated to be clear regarding an operation’s objectives, and to be candid and honest with the public. What has been the approach to ISIS? First we were told that ISIS was “the junior varsity.” Then the President openly admitted, fresh off a golfing spree that he briefly interrupted to express regret at a U.S. citizen’s beheading, that he had no strategy yet to deal with the crisis. In his speech, he spoke about the now serious threat posed by ISIS (after earlier in the month contradicting others in his administration by appearing to minimize its potential for mayhem) and announced that the United States was assembling a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He described the effort as “eradicating a cancer, ” going on to declare, “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
But, the President emphasized, consistent with his atrocious practice of limiting our means of achieving international objectives in advance of knowing what the circumstances will demand, that troops will not be sent to fight on the ground. This means, of course, that if troops are necessary to defeat ISIS (as many military experts insist), either ISIS won’t be defeated, Obama will say “Oops!”, as he did following his ACA lie that it would not force anyone out of their existing health care plan, or, in keeping with this administration’s habit of using double-talk to avoid accountability and the intrusion of reality into its pre-imagined constructs, troops will be called something other than troops.
Too harsh? Let me know what option I’m leaving out.
There is, then, reason for confusion among Americans regarding all of this, especially since President Obama’s Secretary of State insists that bombing isn’t an act of war. I think it’s fair to conclude that what we have here is a failure to communicate, and some added clarity is essential. In that context, this exchange is a disgrace:
REPORTER:What does victory look like here? You’ve talked about destroying ISIL, I honestly don’t know what that means. What does that mean?
JOSH EARNEST: I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary with me up here. We’ll, you know. It’s only —
REPORTER: Talking about that — I understood it when you said —
JOSH EARNEST: I think that’s a pretty illustrative phrase to describe the situation that we envision. We’ve talked about the threat that ISIL poses in the context of foreign fighters.
First, a smug deflection is not a professional or appropriate answer to a legitimate, reasonable and pressing question created entirely by the mixed signals, posturing, backtracking and fecklessness, not to mention the prior track record, of this President and his team.
Second, the answer demonstrates incompetence. Earnest is supposed to be prepared for these questions. That is his job. “What will victory mean in this case?” is a mandatory question given the history of other U.S. military efforts in Iraq, not to mention Vietnam and Afghanistan. Earnest was obligated to have something better than a wisecrack–and one that was neither wise nor funny—prepared as a response.
Third, the comment shows arrogance and contempt for the press and the American people. Following six years of shocking ineptitude and failure on almost every level in every aspect of governing, the Obama administration has forfeited the right to be contemptuous of anyone or anything.
Finally, the answer proved that the Obama administration, as the reporter no doubt suspected, doesn’t know what it means by “victory”—-despite the Vice President’s promise to sent ISIS to the “gates of Hell.”
With any other administration, this would be shocking. With this one, sadly, it is business as usual.