On Monday morning, NPR Morning Edition anchor Steve Inskeep aired some of his end-of-year interview with President Obama (also recorded on video). Obama drew ten minutes of air time, and Inskeep only aired five of his own questions in that time span, about one every two minutes. Often, he explained Obama’s viewpoint on the world in between the quotes. Obama thinks the ISIS threat is overblown, and we can't compromise "our values" in fighting it.
Compare that to the recent Inskeep interview with Ted Cruz. In 7 minutes and 19 seconds, Inskeep challenged Cruz at least 12 times. Inskeep’s first question to Obama wasn’t flattering, but it did suggest he was misunderstood by a fearful public:
STEVE INSKEEP: I have been reading a history of part of the Cold War. Dwight Eisenhower was president, he's meeting his Cabinet sometimes in this room where we're sitting. The Soviet Union has emerged as a major nuclear threat. The country is very worried at this point in the 1950s. But Eisenhower is convinced that they are not that strong, that the United States is stronger, that the U.S. will win if we just avoid a huge war.
And he decides to try to reassure the public, gives a series of speeches, saying "keep your chin up, everything's fine, our strategy is working." It's a total failure. The public doesn't believe him. He is accused of a failure of leadership, and his approval rating goes down. Are you going through the same experience now with regard to ISIS?
Obama wisely and humbly suggested he didn’t have Eisenhower’s resume on war and peace, but his answer suggested ISIS is no USSR, that they’re “nasty” but tiny: “it is also important for us to keep things in perspective, and this is not an organization that can destroy the United States. This is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way. But they can hurt us, and they can hurt our people and our families. And so I understand why people are worried.”
If you’re one of the relatives of the 14 people killed in San Bernardino, “They can hurt us” might sound a little short of the fatal reality. Inskeep didn’t ask something to this effect: “Well, you could also say mass shootings like Sandy Hook can be taken out of perspective. It’s not like mass shooters like Adam Lanza can destroy the entire United States.” But NPR and Obama like the anti-gun narrative, and feel great discomfort with an Islamic-terror narrative.
Inskeep also asked: “What is the public missing about your strategy? And I say that simply because, according to polls, you don't have very much approval for it.” Obama blamed the media, and claimed ISIS has “very savvy media operations,” clearly much better than what the White House can muster:
OBAMA: Well, I think what's fair is that post-Paris you had a saturation of news about the horrible attack there. And ISIL combines viciousness with very savvy media operations. And as a consequence, if you've been watching television for the last month, all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you.
Inskeep continued: “Are you suggesting that the media are being played in a sense here?” Obama implied a yes:
OBAMA: Look, the media is pursuing ratings. This is a legitimate news story. I think that, you know, it's up to the media to make a determination about how they want to cover things. There is no doubt that the actions of ISIL are designed to amplify their power and the threat that they pose. That helps them recruit, that adds in the twisted thoughts of some young person that they might want to have carry out an action, that somehow they're part of a larger movement. And so I think that the American people absorb that, understandably are of concern.
Then Obama claimed “we haven’t, you know, on a regular basis, I think, described all the work we’ve been doing for more than a year now to defeat ISIL.” This is just how Obama described the unpopularity of Obamacare: that the White House PR shop had failed to explain just how delightful it was. NPR did edit out paragraphs of Obama self-defense, including a mention of Fort Hood terrorist shooter Nidal Hasan.
A conservative listening to all this hears a friendly interview on a taxpayer-funded network, liberal to liberal, discussing how independents and Republicans just aren't wise enough to grasp Obama's command of the war on terrorism -- although, ahem, we don't use such provocative terminology.
The toughest question Inskeep offered was reminding President Obama that his own administration suggested right-wing domestic terror was a greater threat than the foreign terror threat:
INSKEEP: You've acknowledged this requires patience. It can be a slow process. During that slow process, there might be more attacks on the United States. In October, before San Bernardino, a Justice Department official stated that he believed that domestic terrorists were a greater threat to the United States than international groups like al-Qaida or ISIS. Do you believe that still now, after San Bernardino and Paris?
OBAMA: I don't know the exact citation that you are referring to. If you just ...
INSKEEP: John Carlin on October 14.
OBAMA: If you just look at the numbers, then non-Islamic, non-foreign-motivated terrorist actions have killed at least as many Americans on American soil as those who were promoted by jihadists. But what we have also seen is ISIL evolve, because of the sophistication of their social media, to a point where they may be inspiring more attacks, even if they are self-initiated, even if they don't involve complex planning, than we would have seen two years ago, three years ago, five years ago.
In fact, Carlin said this at an event sponsored by the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, the chief promoters of the “right-wing domestic terrorism is worse” narrative: "Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists remain a real and present danger to the United States. We recognize that, over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups.”
Inskeep concluded this fraction of the Obama interview with the courteous “what would you tell your successor to do” question:
INSKEEP: Leading candidates in both parties have suggested in one way or another that they want to be more active against this threat. You have argued for the approach that you are taking and that too much action would be unwise. What advice would you give whoever you are going to turn this room over to in a year or so?
Obama repeated what he implied in the overall transcript, that he wasn't weak on terror, he was intelligent and careful, unlike his critics: "But what I would say to my successor is that it is important not just to shoot but to aim. And it is important, in this seat, to make sure that you're making your best judgments based on data, intelligence, the information that's coming from your commanders and folks on the ground and you're not being swayed by politics."
NPR just leaves that argument without comment: Obama, never swayed by politics when he makes decisions on terrorism.
This segment didn't get into the Inskeep questions asking Obama about racism among devoted Obama critics they loved on MSNBC.
Monday's segment wasn't as ridiculous as last year's wrap-up interview, where Inskeep asked Obama if the big Republican victory has "liberated you?"