US President Barack Obama is leader of the free world.
Tough gig, but somebody has to do it. Trouble is, he seems utterly adrift when it comes to dealing with the day-to-day demands of such an onerous job description. Take Tuesday when he was asked for a reaction to ISIS releasing a video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive.
Obama said: “You know, I just got word of the video that had been released. I don’t know the details on the confirmation. Should in fact this video be authentic, it’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization. And I think we will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated. It also indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they are operating off of, it’s bankrupt. We’re here to talk about how to make people healthier and make their lives better. And this organization appears only interested in death and destruction. Thank you very much, everybody.”
It could have been worse. Obama could have finished by saying: “Anyone for golf?” If he had, plenty of people would have believed him given his track record of profound disengagement from the problems that beset the world.
The clue to Obama’s dreamy bemusement lies in the words: “whatever ideology they are operating off of, it’s bankrupt.”
Go on Barack, take a quick stab at that ideology thing. Are they – Islamic State – really an ideological terrorist cover for Presbyterianism? Radical Quakers? Mormons, Jews, Hindus or pastafarians? Is that their political/religious orientation?
Maybe you could ask your lyrically named White House press secretary Josh Earnest for a clue. Or not. Remember Mr Earnest did all he could to dance around the words “radical Islam” in the wake of the terror attacks in France. He did so because it’s about “accuracy.”
A reporter asked why the Obama administration would not follow the French who “are calling the ideology, the warped view, by a name,” and pointed out that Earnest fudged his chance. “Is there a reason for that?”
“The first is accuracy,” Earnest huffed. “These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism and they later tried to justify an act of terrorism by invoking Islam and their own deviant view. The second is, this was an act that was condemned by Muslim leaders. We have not chosen to use that label because it does not accurately describe what happened.”
He added, “We are trying to be as specific and accurate as possible.”
Obama’s dithering in uttering the words “Islamic State” and “terrorism” in the same sentence appears to spread through the White House by a process of osmosis. He won’t give evil a name and neither will anyone else despite the fact that the Charlie Hebdo killers screamed “Allahu Akbar” after they’d finished their work and membership of Islamic State is entirely limited to those who profess the faith of Islam.
It doesn’t require a lot of critical thinking to take people who say they belong to Islamic State at their word. Nor does it stretch the bounds of credulity to call “terrorist” on people who rape, murder, stone, behead, crucify and burn their perceived opponents.
That really is being both specific and accurate.
If Islamic State terrorists are so sure that by sending out their video of a Jordanian pilot being burned to death will inspire others to join their cause, the least Obama can do is respond by correctly labeling their evil work.
Obama gets his chance to set the record straight soon enough.
On February 18, he will personally host a self-described Summit on Countering Violent Extremism to “highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris” according to a White House statement released on January 11.
This could be a brave starting point for Obama to finally take his job seriously, a chance to move from determined community organiser promoted out of his depth to a leader fit to challenge those who trade in the bankrupt currency of evil.
We will have to wait and see. In the meantime, anyone for golf?