It pains me to say this, but President Obama’s response to the question of how the U.S. got “surprised” by the rise of the Islamic State is disappointing — to say the very least.
I’ve noted before how the president likes to use the first-person singular pronoun references to his presidency. He’s particularly fond of using it when they involved success.
When Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” asked him the other day how he could have been surprised by ISIL’s emergence, the president said: “Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”
There it is: “they underestimated …”
I’m not going to join the right-wing mainstream media chorus in saying Barack Obama has thrown Clapper “under the bus.” But as the blog from the Dallas Morning News notes correctly, ISIL’s emergence wasn’t a surprise to those intelligence officials who were paying attention.
Furthermore, as commander in chief, the chief executive of one branch of the U.S. government, the head of state and government, it falls directly on the president of the United States to be aware fully of these matters in real time, as they are happening.
The president did receive a letter signed by senators from both parties that warned him about ISIL. It was sent to the White House nearly 11 months ago, long before those gruesome beheadings captured the nation’s attention. Now we know what’s stake, yes?
Well, apparently, some legislators had more than an inkling nearly a year ago and warned the White House of the impending danger.
As the Morning News’s Tod Robberson notes in his blog: “Okay, let’s assume that Obama disregarded the letter as partisan hyperbole from the same ol’ critics, namely McCain and Graham. That doesn’t account for the contribution from Levin and Menendez. Let’s assume that Obama was reluctant to react because he didn’t trust the mercurial whims of al-Maliki. How does any of that explain his failure to respond when ISIS clearly was sweeping into Iraq’s Anbar Province in January?”
Well, the president is responding now. I’m grateful for that.
I do wish, though, he would take as much ownership of the setbacks as he does of the triumphs.