House press secretary Josh Earnest defended the president Monday,
telling reporters that Barack Obama wasn’t passing the buck when he
blamed intelligence failures for the Islamic State’s rise to power in
Iraq and Syria.
“The president’s commander in chief and he’s the
one who takes responsibility for ensuring that we have the kinds of
policies in place that are required to protect our interests around the
globe,” Earnest said in response to questions about remarks Obama made
in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday.
Obama had said
“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has
acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place
The president’s comments set off a firestorm of
controversy among GOP lawmakers and some members of the intelligence
community, who have argued that Obama should blame himself for failure
to act on information provided.
“I very much doubt that the
intelligence community was asleep at the switch while [ISIS] was gaining
strength in Syria,” former State Department special adviser on Syria
Frederic Hoff told The Telegraph. “None of this was exactly hidden from
“No doubt President Obama and his advisors were perplexed
when it came to policy options, and no doubt the scope and speed of the
[ISIS] thrust into Iraq were surprising. But I doubt that the U.S.
intelligence community is to blame for any policy shortfalls.”
Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz.) called Obama’s remark a “dog ate my homework speech.”
president in history had made a mistake, acknowledged it and then moved
on. President Reagan with Iran contra, President Clinton in Bosnia,
President George W. Bush after the debacle in Iraq, when he started the
surge – but it doesn’t seem to be in this president’s DNA,” he told Fox
As reporters pelted him with questions about the
president’s refusal to admit his administration’s failures in the Middle
East, Earnest turned the tables to attack Republicans who have said
that U.S. boots on the ground may become an unavoidable reality in the
fight against ISIS.
House Speaker John Boehner said of ISIS
Sunday, “At the end of the day, I think it’s gonna take more than air
strikes to drive them outta there. At some point somebody’s boots have
to be on the ground.”
Earnest told reporters the remark was unsurprising.
something that senior members of the Republican Party advocated in the
previous administration,” he said. “It’s something that senior members
of the Republican Party advocate in this administration.”
But it isn’t just Republican lawmakers who foresee U.S. troops fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll
released over the weekend, 72 percent of respondents said that they
believe the U.S. will end up using boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria
despite the Obama administration’s repeated promises that troops will
not be deployed in a combat capacity.
The results of that poll were exaggerated Monday with reports that ISIS fighters are reportedly staging roughly one mile outside of Baghdad
even though U.S. airstrikes were supposed to keep the fighters from reaching the city.