NBC, ABC: Obama ‘Extremely Defensive,’ ‘Irritated’ by Press Questioning ISIS Strategy

Following a press conference in which President Obama stubbornly refused to admit any failures in his strategy to fight ISIS, reporters on NBC and ABC were stunned by the commander-in-chief’s dismissive attitude toward the legitimate tough questioning he received.     

During an NBC special report immediately following the contentious exchange with reporters, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd declared: “I was struck by how defensive he was, how much he's paying attention to his political critics....I was surprised by his tone, I was surprised by the defensiveness. He didn't channel what I think a lot of Americans are feeling right now, a little bit of anger, a little bit of resolve, and a little bit of resiliency.”

He warned that the President was going against the will of the American people: “I go back to the tone of this press conference. Extremely defensive and almost not yet realizing that many of the reporters in that room, they're channeling the public in this case...”

In a report on ABC, White House correspondent Jon Karl proclaimed: “...it was a striking press conference in how defensive the President was about his strategy, saying that he has the right strategy in the battle against ISIL....he was defensive, he was irritated by the questions, and he made it clear that he believes he is doing the right thing.”

He observed: “It was interesting that by far the most passion that you saw in that press conference was not about what happened in Paris but his response to his critics....almost ridiculing ideas that have come in for an intensification of the U.S. Military response in terms of ground troops to Syria.”

CBS provided full coverage of the press conference itself, but only provided seconds of analysis afterwards, with This Morning co-host Charlie Rose simply noting that Obama “strongly defended his strategy.”

During the press conference, reporters hammered the President over his failing strategy to combat Islamic terrorism:

10:00 AM ET


JEROME CARTILLIER [AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE]: Thank you, Mr. President. 129 people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed, isn’t time for your strategy to change?


10:08 AM ET

MARGARET BRENNAN [CBS NEWS]: Thank you Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the west. Have you underestimated their abilities and will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. Forces to take more aggressive action?


10:14 AM ET

JIM AVILA [ABC NEWS]: Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific credible threat to the United States today.

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that you're reluctance to enter another Middle East war and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.


10:17 AM ET

BARACK OBAMA: With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they're proposing, most of the time when pressed they describe things that we're already doing. Maybe they're not aware we're already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we're doing that that would make a difference because that seems to be the only thing they're doing is talking as if they're tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq, or now in Syria, and at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that's what they would do. I just addressed why I think they're wrong.


10:20 AM ET

OBAMA: But what we do not do, what I do not do, is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow in the abstract make America look tough or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is every few months I go to Walter Reed and I see a 25-year-old kid that's paralyzed or has lost his limbs and some of those are people I've ordered into battle. And so I can't afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We'll do what's required to keep the American people safe. And I think it's entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. Folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisers are better than the chairman of my joint chiefs of staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate.

But what I'm not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect people in the region who are getting killed and to protect our allies and people like France. I'm too busy for that.


10:23 AM ET

JIM ACOSTA [CNN]: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you had not underestimated ISIS's abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in the other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities and how is that contained, quite frankly?

And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. And I guess the question is, and if you’ll forgive the language, is why can't we take out these bastards?

OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question. So I don't know what more you want me to add.


10:26 AM ET

RON ALLEN [NBC NEWS]: Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you're pursuing, and it's been more than a year now, ISIS's capability seems to be expanding. Where you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned and do you think they have the same capability to strike in the United States? And do you think given all you've learned about ISIS over the past year or so and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

OBAMA: Alright, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess, let me try it one last time.        


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