NBC: ISIS Forcing 'Reluctant' Obama to Be 'Wartime President'

At the end of a report on Wednesday's NBC Today about President Obama's upcoming speech on combating ISIS terrorists, correspondent Peter Alexander sympathetically observed: "The primetime nature of this speech really underscores its stakes, but also a significant shift for this President, who wanted to leave the White House as a peacetime president. But now...is likely to commit the country to what some say could be another potentially costly military campaign." [Listen to the audio]

In the segment that followed, co-host Matt Lauer led off a discussion with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd on that sentiment: "Peter just said the President wanted to leave office as a peacetime president. ISIS makes the decision whether he leaves as a wartime president." Todd replied: "He's been reluctant and we know over about a ten-day period he seemed to be the last one in his administration acknowledging that there needed to be a military campaign."

The highlighting of Obama's yearning to avoid war was reminiscent of MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell in 2013 proclaiming that any U.S. military action against Syria would be done "from a very cautious anti-war perspective."

On Wednesday, Lauer and Todd acknowledged how out of step Obama was with the American public:

LAUER: He makes this speech on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and as a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that half of Americans feel less safe now than they did just before those 9/11 attacks. And our polling also shows that two-thirds of Americans say it's in our best interest to confront these ISIS militants.

TODD: This is an odd situation. Usually a president goes on to primetime and tries to rally the nation behind him. In this case, the nation's there, they're trying to find out if the President is with them. You know, these beheadings, it was the most followed news story that we've tracked in five years. That's where this fear comes from.

Near the end of the exchange, Lauer listed several unanswered questions about the President's strategy, prompting Todd to conclude: "And those questions are why the President was so reluctant in the first place, he still hasn't gotten a good answer from his own aides, is what happens after the bombing?"

Here is a full transcript of the September 10 segment:

7:05 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and moderator of Meet the Press. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

LAUER: Peter just said the President wanted to leave office as a peacetime president. ISIS makes the decision whether he leaves as a wartime president.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The President's ISIS Plan; To Address Nation On New Strategy]  

CHUCK TODD: That's right. And that's what he's confronting tonight. He's been reluctant and we know over about a ten-day period he seemed to be the last one in his administration acknowledging that there needed to be a military campaign. That there wasn't a political solution here. And that's what he's going to outline tonight.

LAUER: He makes this speech on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and as a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that half of Americans feel less safe now than they did just before those 9/11 attacks. And our polling also shows that two-thirds of Americans say it's in our best interest to confront these ISIS militants.

TODD: This is an odd situation. Usually a president goes on to primetime and tries to rally the nation behind him. In this case, the nation's there, they're trying to find out if the President is with them. You know, these beheadings, it was the most followed news story that we've tracked in five years. That's where this fear comes from.

LAUER: We don't expect to the hear the minutia of the plan in this speech tonight. One of the things we know is part of it, though, is the training and the support of the Syrian opposition.

TODD: So-called moderate opposition.

LAUER: The President has already asked Congress for the authority to do that. But I want to read you something he said to the New York Times just three weeks ago. Talking to Tom Friedman, he said, "There is not as much capacity as you would hope when it comes to finding, training, and arming a sufficient number of those opposition members." So is he about to contradict himself tonight?

TODD: I feel like he has. This is not the solution. The solution, when you talk to him, frankly, what he was saying to me in the interview and what his aides say, the solution is Saudi troops. The solution is U.A.E. troops, it's Turkish troops. This moderate opposition, the reason the President's been reluctant to arm them before is they barely exist. The fear is that the arms end up in ISIS.

LAUER: And the speech will raise questions. We don't know if they'll be answered tonight. How long will this take? How much will it cost? Can it be accomplished? Can you defeat ISIS without U.S. troops on the ground? Congress wants to hear the answers to those questions.

TODD: They do. And those questions are why the President was so reluctant in the first place, he still hasn't gotten a good answer from his own aides, is what happens after the bombing?

LAUER: Alright, Chuck Todd. Chuck, thank you very much.

TODD: You got it.

LAUER: NBC News will have live coverage of the President's address to the nation. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern, 6 Pacific Time.

Foreign Policy Middle East War on Terrorism Liberals & Democrats NBC Today Video Peter Alexander Matt Lauer Chuck Todd

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