There was a revealing moment Sunday at the G20 summit in Turkey: As all stood for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the Paris terror attacks, Barack Obama walked in late. This is the president who made the start time for the Chicago Bulls home opener just fine, mind you. Still, tardiness has been the norm for the duration of Obama’s presidency. The country and the world are always meant to wait for him, for both revolve around his leisure.
At his departing press conference at the G20 yesterday, Obama made the bold declaration that he’s “not interested in . . . posing or pursuing some notion of ‘American leadership’ or ‘America winning.’” As he enters the twilight of his presidency, 2015 will end the same way it began — with terror attacks in the City of Light and a weak response by him that conveys the sense of his already having one foot out the door. Gone is any semblance of the lively “attack comic,” as Politico recently called him.
Except ISIS has made it known it will no longer wait for him.
Maybe we should just be thankful Obama showed up to the moment of silence at all. (Remember, he opted out of the post–Charlie Hebdo attack Paris unity march this past January to stay home and watch NFL football.) During his press conference, Obama seemed weary and frustrated that reporters were asking him genuine questions about his ISIS strategy. In responding, he described the Paris attacks as a “setback.” A setback to what he would not say. His retirement party, perhaps.
During his press conference, Obama seemed weary and frustrated that reporters were asking him genuine questions about his ISIS strategy.
Obama also used the occasion to criticize the Republicans seeking to replace him. Let’s not forget, he played golf just last week with ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, who on his radio show compared the Tea Party to the very people who just brutally executed 129 people in France. Obama has made it quite clear which of the two groups he believes is a bigger threat to the safety of the country and world. But this is a harder sell in front of an international media no longer buying his “JV squad” football spiking.
Unlike Obama, the Republican presidential candidates didn’t appear on television with George Stephanopoulos the day after the attacks and vow that ISIS was “contained.” Evidently, “containment” to Barack Obama is an attack on a train, thwarted only by brave citizens and American servicemen. Containment is ISIS executing 200 children on video the other week. Containment is all signs pointing to ISIS’s having bombed a Russian passenger jet out of the sky. Containment is bomb attacks in Beirut. Containment is ISIS demolishing thousand-year-old temples and archeological sites as our media shed righteous tears on social media.
Containment is our media burying the story of Faisal Mohammed, a college student who went on an ISIS-inspired stabbing rampage on his campus, and choosing to cover Ben Carson’s comments about the pyramids instead.
So if there’s any bright side to Obama’s embarrassing press-conference performance, it’s that we probably won’t have a new pointless hashtag. Obama has become fundamentally uninterested in leading the world and defeating ISIS, and the Democrats looking to replace him don’t seem any different.
Just last month at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, moderator Anderson Cooper asked the candidates to name the enemy they are most proud of having. The NRA, Wall Street, and Republicans all made the list. ISIS did not.
Instead of giving a unifying speech in response to the horror of the Paris attacks, Obama chose to play the grumpy cat and blame Republicans for creating a climate that makes it really difficult to let him off the hook for the red lines he himself put in place. If Barack Obama can’t take questions from the international media on his failures to contain ISIS, how is he ever going to deal with Putin or the Chinese?
— Stephen L. Miller is a writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He publishes The Wilderness, which focuses on viral politics and social media.