Politics & Policy

Clinton Defends Obama’s ‘JV Team’ Label for ISIS

Clinton at the Council on Foreign Relations, November 19, 2015. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton refused to say Thursday that President Obama misjudged the danger posed by ISIS when he called it the “JV team” of Islamic terrorism early last year, explaining that the label made sense “from the perspective of what they had accomplished at the time.”

Clinton spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on Thursday, laying out her strategy for defeating ISIS and retaking large swathes of Iraq and Syria from the clutches of the deadly terrorist group. Afterward, she participated in a Q & A moderated by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

“Do you believe that President Obama underestimated ISIS when he called it the JV team?” Zakaria asked.

“I don’t think it’s useful to go back and re-plow old ground,” Clinton said. “I think from the perspective of what they had accomplished at that time, even though they had seized and held territory, the major focus of our government was on trying to remove Assad from power so that there could a be a resolution, a political resolution.”

#share#After ISIS captured Fallujah, Iraq in early 2014, President Obama was pressed to explain why the United States seemed to have been caught unawares. “If a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” he told New Yorker editor David Remnick.

In the following months, ISIS established a de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria; took large swathes of the country and swept into northern Iraq; captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, before moving on Baghdad; attempted genocide against Yazidi minorities in northern Iraq; and drew the United States into an air campaign in September 2014.

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.

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