It seems like at least a few members of the press corps watched President Barack Obama pander gracelessly to progressive sensibilities in an interview with Vox.com’s top personalities. On Tuesday, ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl and Fox News correspondent Ed Henry nailed White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest to the wall on Obama’s disturbing equivocation when it came to matters relating to Islamic terrorism.
If you missed it yesterday, the President of the United States equated his counterterrorism responsibilities as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to serving as a big city mayor addressing and mitigating the threat posed by local crime. He added that he thought the radicalized Islamist who attacked a kosher deli in Paris last month targeted his victims “randomly,” and said that climate change represents a greater threat to global security than radical terrorism but that it was too complex of an issue for the press to give it the focus it deserves. Yes, it was that bad.
On Tuesday, Earnest was pressed to explain the president’s thinking on these matters. The press secretary appeared to have a tough time of it:
When asked by Karl if Obama really, truly believed that climate change is a greater threat to life and liberty than terrorism, Earnest remained composed. “I think, Jon, that the point that the president was making,” Earnest began, “was that there are many more people on an annual basis who have to confront the impact – the direct impact on their lives – of climate change, or of the spread of a disease than on terrorism.”
Probed as to whether he would definitively assert that Obama thinks terrorism is not as great a cause for alarm as is the weather, Earnest did not disappoint. In a rambling response about the struggles climate change imposes on Americans, “particularly Americans living in this country,” Earnest confirmed in not so many words that the president views global warming as a valid national security challenge on par with, if not more significant than, terrorism.
The press secretary went on to defend the president’s assertion that the attack on a Parisian kosher deli occurred “randomly.”
“The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they randomly happen to be,” Earnest said.
The victims were killed because of who they were, what they were, and they did not walk into a kosher deli at random. This is humiliating.
Earnest later asserted that neither he nor the president doubt that this deli was targeted by an Islamist radical so that he could kill as many Jews as possible. As Henry noted, though, Obama conspicuously refused to make that case in his interview with Vox.
The entire administration is now forced to defend the president’s careless remarks. On Tuesday, State Department Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki was compelled to justify Obama’s comments in a manner similar to Earnest.
When asked if the administration thinks that this attack on a kosher deli was also an attack on the Jewish community in Paris, Psaki insisted that she would not get ahead of the French authorities on that matter. But her department already had.
“We condemn in the strongest terms yesterday’s cowardly anti-Semitic assault against the innocent people in the kosher supermarket,” said State Department spokeswoman Chanan Weissman in a statement provided to The Jerusalem Post (hat tip to Michael Weiss). “France’s historic Jewish community has too often in the recent past been the target of extremist violence.”
Someone must have brought this to Psaki’s attention following today’s briefing because she later took to Twitter to clarify:
We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.
— Jen Psaki (@statedeptspox) February 10, 2015
Merely because the progressive community chafes at being reminded that the War on Terror remains a feature of American foreign policy, the president has forced his administration to look ham-fisted and amateurish as they feebly grope for rhetorical footing that would rescue the president from the consequences of his own comments. And all this on the day that Americans learn that another of their citizens was killed by ISIS while being held in their custody for ransom. How unseemly.
UPDATE (Via Jonathan Chait): The administration is now unequivocally saying, as they have in the past, that the attack on a kosher deli in Paris in January was motivated by anti-Semitism.
Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn't intend to suggest otherwise.
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) February 10, 2015
WH now says "Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn't intend to suggest otherwise."
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 10, 2015