The Corner

MSNBC Grills WH’s Josh Earnest: ‘Is Yemen Still a Success Story? Can You Say That?’

MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Chris Jansing lit into White House press secretary Josh Earnest over his administration’s continued insistence that Yemen is a counter-terror success story, even as the U.S.-backed president flees the country and Saudi Arabia begins an aerial campaign against anti-American Houthi rebels. 

“Josh, I’ll put you on the spot here,” Brzezinski asked Thursday on Morning Joe. “Is Yemen still a success story? Can you say that?”

“Yemen has, for years, been a chaotic situtation —” Earnest began.

“But is it a success story?” Brzezinski pressed.

Earnest admitted that groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were likely seeking “to take advantage of this, to try to insert themselves into the chaos.”

“Well clearly that’s what happened!” Brzezinski said. “So should we dial back on the words that it is a ’success story,’ when you have the president fleeing on a boat?”

The White House spokesman noted that the goal of U.S. policy is not “to build a Jeffersonian democracy there,” but to “make sure Yemen is not a safe haven” for Islamic terrorists with designs on striking the West.

Jansing didn’t buy it. “How, Josh,” she asked. “How, when you have the embassy closed, the Americans have left, you have the parliament that has been dissolved, you have the president fleeing on a boat, you have so many less possibilities for intelligence on the ground — how can you say that we’re still in a counter-terror situation there?”

Earnest admitted that “we would much rather be in a situation where there is a stable central government that can actively support our ongoing efforts,” but said the U.S. continues to be in touch with the remaining portions of the Yemeni government.

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