President Obama did himself a heap of harm in blaming U.S. intelligence services for his own failure to recognize ISIS as a growing threat until the frightening truth was unavoidable.
Naturally, the name George Bush came up when I broached this to a liberal friend. I tried to head her off by offering to stipulate that the former president is responsible for all evil throughout history, but she would not be deterred. George Bush blamed faulty intelligence for his belief that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, she insisted
Here’s the difference: George Bush was telling the truth. President Obama, based on evidence in the public domain, had been told that ISIS was a growing threat. Eli Lake has a good piece at the Daily Beast summarizing why President Obama’s attempt to shirk responsibility doesn’t cohere with reality. Money quote:
Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said.
We won’t be able to give President Obama a pop quiz on his Presidential Daily Briefings, but there is ample evidence that he paid scant attention to them. This from today’s New York Times:
By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.
But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”
Wow! An apocalyptic terrorist organization with ambitions for world domination growing by leaps and bounds—and there are more important things on the president’s to do list? The Obama loyalist New York Times, for the record, goes on to note that there were a number of times the intelligence service was caught off guard. It is more likely that the perk-obsessed president, who found escape from his job in dinner parties and such, wasn’t meeting his obligations.
For President Obama to have faced up to the threat from ISIS (assuming he read enough of his daily briefings to be aware of the threat) would have required courage: he believed that his mere inauguration as president would reduce the Islamic threat, which people of the president’s ideological bent believe is a sad but predictable reaction to U.S. meddling in the world anyway. It would have taken open-mindedness and courage for the president to admit what was happening. The man who possibly didn’t send help to Americans stranded in Benghazi because it would tip off the world to the rising threat from terrorists was not the man to rise to this occasion.
And as Josh Kraushaar notes in an article on Obama’s “pass-the-buck presidency” in National Journal, the Obama administration had developed an effective strategy for getting out of jams:
The time-tested strategy for Obama: Claim he's in the dark about his own administration's activities, blame the mess on subordinates, and hope that with the passage of time, all will be forgotten. Harry Truman, the president isn't. He's more likely to pass the buck.
Speaking of the new White House in a letter to Abigail Adams, John Adams wrote:
Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.
Here is the link to the relevant portion of President Obama's unwise and arguably uncandid remarks on 60 Minutes.