Things got a bit spicy on CNN’s State of the Union this weekend when Jake Tapper interviewed Secretary of State John Kerry about the recent terror attack in Nice. Kerry was rather matter of fact about what was being done, at least right up until the point when he claimed that ISIS is, “on the run, and I believe what we’re seeing are the desperate actions of an entity that sees the noose closing around it.”
As transcribed at Real Clear Politics, Tapper wasn’t having much of that answer. Rather than simply accepting it and moving along, he pushed back on the nation’s chief diplomat, informing him that ISIS has one heck of a success record of late for a group that’s on the run. The section of the interview in question begins at roughly the two minute mark of the video:
TAPPER: With all due respect, sir, I’m not sure it looks that way to the public that ISIS is on the run. In the last few weeks we have seen a series of ISIS inspired attacks and 49 killed in Orlando and 45 killed in Istanbul and more than 200 killed in Baghdad and 84 in Nice.
This is just the last five weeks. I don’t think ISIS is on the run– and they might be expanding.
If anything, Kerry’s answer is even more dumbfounding.
“Jake… Jake… it depends what you mean by ISIS. I don’t know this guy was ISIS. Nor do you.”
I’m sorry… did you really just say it depends what you mean by ISIS? Is this some sort of Clintonesque moment where you’re going to start asking what we mean by the word “is” now?
In any event, this was one of those all too rare moments in the media when an anchor actually poked back at a rather laughable statement. I understand what John Kerry is trying to get at here, just to be clear. ISIS is clearly losing territory in terms of establishing their permanent Caliphate in the desert, and if things keep up at the current pace they may well be confined to a much smaller space centering on Syria for some time to come. But that’s not really the true danger ISIS represents to the west, is it? Al Qaeda was never known for holding all that much in the way of actual “territory” unless you count their partnership with the Taliban in Afghanistan, but it didn’t stop them from striking all over the world. The only thing that slowed them down was taking the battle straight into their teeth and killing them in the largest numbers possible in multiple countries. What we’re fighting isn’t one army holding on to a piece of land. We’re battling an evil ideology which is spreading through mosques and other gathering places around the world, even in our own country.
That’s the ISIS we’re fighting. And as Tapper so ably pointed out, they are clearly not “on the run.”