We’ve all dealt with liars. We all know what it feels when someone tells a brazen lie to our face. It’s an uncomfortable experience. Do you confront the person and risk embarrassing him, or do you let it slide? If you dislike the person – it’s not so hard to call them out. But if you like them – if they’re a friend – it is very difficult indeed. As far as the American press corps is concerned – they are much better at calling out lies (or what they perceive to be lies – usually just policy disagreements) of Republicans. It’s much harder for them to call out the lies of their Democrat friends.
That’s what the White House press corps is up against every day at the daily press briefings.
So kudos to the intrepid ABC reporter Jonathan Karl for calling Josh Earnest out on his lie about Obama not referring to ISIS (or ISIL as the WH likes to call them) when he called them JV. It must have been very uncomfortable for him.
Karl brought up congressional testimony last November from Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk. In his statements to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee [PDF], McGurk spoke of multiple attacks ISIS had carried out last year, and explained how ISIS has been able to thrive: AQ/ISIL has benefited from a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed, among the population in Anbar and Ninewa provinces. It has also benefited from a sanctuary across the porous border in Syria, control of lucrative facilities there, such as oil wells, and regular movement of weapons and fighters between Syria and Iraq.
Karl asked, “Did this message get to the president? Did he believe it? Did he not hear it? What happened?
Earnest gave a long-winded answer attempting to absolve the the Regime of the charge of negligence, beginning with a favorite WH conceit – which is using peer pressure to shame a tough questioner – “this is something the president has discussed on a number of occasions.” (Apparently some reporters *cough* Jon Karl *cough* have been too dense to pick up on it.)
“Principally what we’re talking about here is the rapid advance of ISIL across the Iraqi desert and the success that they have had after that advance – of holding whole swaths of territory. That is not to say that the was not an acknowledgement of the risks that this organization posed…”
Karl interrupted Earnest right there and cut to the chase: “Let me stop you for a second because two months after Brett McGurk says this – the president calls ISIL the Jay-Vee team in an interview in the New Yorker….”
Earnest: (interrupting) “We’ve been through this and that’s not what – ”
Karl “He was clearly talking about ISIL..”
Earnest: (interrupting) That’s not true.
Karl: “The question was specifically about what happened after ISIL took over Fallujah. The question was directly about” —
Earnest: “We can look at the transcript after the briefing – that’s not what it says.”
Okay, let’s look at the transcript from the New Yorker interview:
In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda (ISIS) is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”
Obama knew exactly who they were and what they were doing. *Anyone who was paying attention, last year, knew they were a threat to humanity – and was appalled by the genocide they were visiting upon Christians and ethnic minorities in Syria. We wondered why the United States was doing nothing to stop it.
All those people died because Obama didn’t want to upset his base by “meddling” in “sectarian violence.” As if the wholesale death and destruction (mass-murders, beheadings, crucifixions) the insane murder cult ISIS was leaving in its wake – could be described as “sectarian violence.” When the violence inevitably spilled over into large swaths of Iraq, Obama was forced to change his tune.
“Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to [Islamic State],” Obama told Chuck Todd many months later on Meet the Press.
Even David Remnick, who did the interview with Obama and wrote the New Yorker profile, said, “I’m afraid this is spin; it’s disingenuous,” he said on CNN’s AC360.
At the time of the New Yorker interview, ISIL had recently seized Fallujah, as Remnick remembers: “It seemed to me, looking back on it, that yes, he murderswas referring to the group that had taken over Fallujah. I specifically said Fallujah, and that’s who it was, and he’s fully informed.”
“I think this denial is putting spin on the ball,” Remnick said. “I thought this piece of language, and his communication in general on foreign policy in recent months has been rather, and surprisingly, lax and out of key.”
And you know for the factcheckers to rate this president’s claims as false, they have to be egregious – demonstrably false lies that can no longer stand up to any scrutiny.
The problem is in this whole process the president of the United States is distorting the truth. He’s doing so willfully. But this deception will not only fail; it will further undermine his credibility, which is already at a low ebb. As Mr. Obama said in 2008, “I mean, words mean something. You can’t just make stuff up.”
Mr. Obama is at war with reality, and reality is winning.
Finally -After six years of daily beatings – reality is finally winning a few here and there.
The Daily Beast: Why Obama Can’t Say His Spies Underestimated ISIS
* Previous posts on terrorism in Syria: