Once the right-wing media elite had decided that President Obama was to blame for ISIL, there was nothing at all he could do to escape criticism, whatever happened. As I argued here yesterday, the Republican reaction to ISIL/ISIS is ultimately not about a band of Islamic terrorists but about Obama, and Abu and his gang are simply the latest in a long line of excuses used to attack the president.
Though we know that ultimately, it is a medieval schism between Sunni and Shiite that made ISIL possible, and that the more direct cause is President Bush’s disastrous decision in 2003 to invade Iraq, and the subsequent SOFA accord which brought American troops home, the right wing media elite can hardly blame a Republican president they barely acknowledge existed.
The latest round of blame is based on U.S. intelligence failures. As Media Matters explains it, when Obama appeared on CBS News “60 Minutes” on Sunday, September 28, he “repeated the assessment of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, of the intelligence community’s initial view on the threat posed by the Islamic State.”
Watch the interview courtesy of CBS News:
Media Matters points out that, far from throwing the intel community under the bus, Obama “merely” cited Clapper’s own words:
As David Ignatius wrote in a September 18 Washington Post column, Clapper said in a phone interview that the intelligence community knew of the Islamic State’s “prowess and capability,” but “underestimated” the group’s will to fight.
If Obama says it, they will misinterpret it or edit out key words (like here, and here for example), and if he doesn’t say it, they will say he did anyway. There is literally nothing our first black president can do to escape attack, and this analysis of American intel failures was turned immediately into President Obama’s intelligence failure.
As The Telegraph observed Monday, Fury as Obama blames intelligence agencies for Isil surprise:
With his foreign policy approval ratings at a historic low, Barack Obama meets furious reaction after blaming US intelligence agencies for failing to predict rise of Isil in Syria
Everyone has got the bug: Brian Kilmeade said on Fox & Friends on September 29, “It just bothers me so much to see somebody blame somebody else for a position they’re in. That’s the anti-leadership quotient.”
Of course, the “anti-leadership” quotient doesn’t apply to Republicans like Chris Christie or Sarah Palin or Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Corey Gardner, or any other Republicans who has been caught telling a bald-faced lie about their actions.
Jennifer Rubin wrote in her Right Turn column at The Washington Post that, “Obama’s excuse that this was an intelligence failure is pure bunk,” claiming that “The president is nothing if not reliable when it comes to avoiding responsibility for his gross foreign policy errors.”
The headlines of the past week tell the tale:
Breitbart says Obama Blames Intelligence Community for His Own Military Failures, Washington Times ran with Obama knew for months of intel community’s concerns about Islamic State, the Wall Street Journal says The President blames the spooks for his own policy failure on ISIS.
What about the missing WMDs and President Bush, you say? WSJ chimes in with,
President Obama rode to the White House in part by assailing George W. Bush for believing faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. So there is no small irony in his claim now that America’s spooks missed the rise of the Islamic State. The difference is that U.S. intelligence did warn about the threat from ISIS. Mr. Obama chose not to listen.
But that’s not the irony at all. The real irony is, of course, that through all this, Republicans, who have refused to accept any responsibility for the Iraq War, the mythical WMDs, and Bush’s catastrophic mishandling of the invasion’s aftermath, are now blaming Obama for what is, ultimately, their own responsibility, all the while attacking Obama for not taking responsibility for things he is not responsible for.
Chis Christie, who refused to accept personal responsibility for Bridgegate and wants instead for us all to forget Bridgegate, told CNN’s Dana Bash on Tuesday that President Obama should accept personal responsibility for intel failures surrounding the rise of ISIL, and that he is “disturbed” because the president (but not the governor, apparently) ought to hold himself accountable.
Christie said, “If I think the president’s doing something well, I don’t hesitate to say that he is, but I think the jury’s still out on this because I don’t think we should be in this position to begin with.”
No, we shouldn’t. But did anyone remind Christie that it was Bush who invaded an innocent Iraq in the first place, thus giving al-Qaeda a foothold where none had existed before, not to mention a wealth of recruits? Did anyone remind Christie of his own disinclination to accept personal responsibility for his actions in the state he governs?
No, of course not. He’s a Republican. One thing you can count on the right wing media elite to do is to stroke Republican egos and to avoid uncomfortable questions. If you read the CNN piece on the Bash interview, you will look in vain for mention of bridges and Bushes.
Foreign Policy magazine got into the act as well, with a headline reading Obama’s Islamic State Blame Game, and telling us that “the nation’s spies feel that the president is throwing them under the bus – again.”
In a bit of rhetorical jujitsu, Obama didn’t personally blame the intelligence community for failing to predict that the Islamic State would capture vast chunks of territory in Iraq earlier this year, prompting U.S. airstrikes and the deployment of some 2,000 special operations forces and other personnel. Instead, when correspondent Steve Kroft asked, “How did [the Islamic State] end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?” Obama replied, “Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”
Reader comments are no better. We found these on Newsmax (where would the right wing media be without “patriots” and “angry white males”?):
ken • 4 days ago
Right Obama it is always someone else fault
patriot in houston • 4 days ago
His petulant immaturity is pathetic. A strong leader NEVER throws his people under the bus like this loser does. He constantly whines about everything and blames the world for his own stinking armpits.
Angry White Male • 3 days ago
He is a disgrace and even his base is getting wise to his lies.
Dog ate my home work, I found out about it in the newspaper, you can keep your doctor & healthcare… etc etc.
Jason Easley wrote here on Sunday that, “As the Republican news network, Fox News had been trying to portray President Obama’s ISIL strategy as a failure since before he officially announced it.” The right wing media elite followed Fox News eagerly, as they always do.
The blame has been assigned, and no matter what the facts say, the media, while telling Obama to accept personal responsibility, will no more tell Republicans to accept responsibility than it will itself accept personal responsibility for its misinformation and outright dishonesty.
And that’s what this brouhaha is all about: attacking President Obama. And if it isn’t ISIL, it will be something else. Fox News has shown that it will go to any lengths to demonize Obama, and there isn’t a Republican worthy of note who stand up for the actual facts when there is a chance to attack the president instead.
U.S. intel failures have become the latest Republican Benghazi hoax. But if personal responsibility existed in the mainstream media, what the headlines ought to be reading instead this past week is that, “Hypocritical self-righteousness defines America’s right wing.”
But don’t hold your breath for that.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.