The immediate focus after President Obama’s press conference Thursday was his unartful declaration that he doesn’t yet have a strategy for the terrorist group sweeping through Iraq and controlling parts of Syria. But the main message he conveyed was much larger than any semantic squabble: This is a president who is not going to be hurried in his response to daily developments. He is not going to be stampeded into a military strike either by horrific videos of executions and beheadings or by growing complaints from political foes who say action is overdue.
That caution reflects both the lawyer that Obama is and a continuing revulsion to the style of his predecessor, who saw himself as “the decider” while often not taking the time to weigh all the consequences.
In some ways, the flap over what Obama said about strategy is a sideshow. It is clear from his overall comments that he has what he sees as a strategy for defeating the terrorists, one that relies on close coordination with other regional powers and with American allies, all of whom he said he is including in the discussions building up to next week’s NATO summit in Wales.
What he doesn’t have yet is the military plan. That, he said, will come after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff produce “a range of options.” He added, “I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy.” When the president receives those options, he will assess how they fit into the existing overall strategy for the region, according to White House aides who scrambled Thursday evening to clarify what the president said.
Without question, he could have made that clearer in his remarks. Now, after his performance in the White House Briefing Room, the main challenge to the president is to demonstrate that he is not suffering from paralysis by analysis, lest he confirm James Carville’s lament that Democrats too often “see six sides to the Pentagon.” Obama must show that concrete action will emerge from this process. But the impetus for coming out to talk to reporters seemed to be to slow down the speculation that anything is imminent.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said. “And in some of the media reports, the suggestion seems to have been that, you know, we’re about to go full-scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL. And the suggestion, I guess, has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress, still out of town, is going to be left in the dark. That’s not what’s going to happen.”
Instead, he outlined a process that has a place for both Congress and the broader public. Because he said what emerges as the response to the terrorists will have what he called “a military aspect” and “may cost some money.” He promised continued consultations with Congress because “it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in.” And he pledged that he will make sure “that the American people are part of the debate.”
The White House calculation is that, in the end, both Congress and the people will appreciate a process that ponders the full consequences before the bombs fall—in contrast to a comment on Tuesday by one of the neo-con backers of the Bush administration’s military plunge into Iraq. Bill Kristol, speaking to conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, was mocking the suggestion that “we can’t just bomb” the ISIS radicals. “Why don’t we just [bomb]? We know where ISIS is,” said Kristol. “What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?”
However you define the word, that is not Obama’s idea of a strategy.
What We're Following See More »
"US President Donald Trump will visit the UK in mid-July, according to Sky sources," with a formal announcement expected soon. "Mr Trump was due to open the new US Embassy in London in February but cancelled the trip saying the building was too expensive and tweeting that he was not a 'big fan' of the decision to move its location."
"North Korea’s underground nuclear test site has become unusable after a large part of it collapsed," say experts from the University of Science and Technology of China. "Their evidence comes just one week after a surprise announcement from leader Kim Jong Un that North Korea would stop nuclear tests." The finding contradicts the Trump Administration's claim that the closure was a major concession by North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, who is set to meet with him for talks with President Trump in May.
"Republicans on Wednesday will begin a push to change Senate rules in a way that would allow the faster confirmation of President Trump's nominees, after months of complaints that Democrats are dragging out the process. The Senate Rules Committee will meet in the afternoon to consider a resolution that would reduce post-cloture debate for most Executive Branch nominees from 30 hours to just 8 hours. The goal is to prevent Democrats from stretching out debate over several days."
Arizona Republican Debbie Lesko won a special election to fill the deep red seat Trent Franks retired from earlier this year. Unofficial balloting had her up 52.9% to 47.2%. This victory is a bit close for comfort, considering Donald Trump's 21-point victory there in 2016. This victory will do very little to calm GOP nerves five months before Election Day.
Apple CEO Tim Cook will meet with President Trump today, "at a time of heightened trade tensions between the U.S. and China with technology caught up in the spat. Both countries have proposed import tariffs on each others' products, but the U.S. has been tough on Chinese technology firms." China is an important market for Apple, and Cook is expected to bring up the worsening trade relationship.