The White House is in damage control mode. How can you tell? White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has been making the rounds on cable news ever since President Barack Obama walked off stage yesterday after he revealed to the nation the United States does not “have a strategy” to strike ISIS in its Syrian stronghold.
Earnest appeared on a variety of venues on Thursday night and Friday morning, but the media appearance which is most instructive about the awfulness of his position — having to clean up the president’s mess – was his hit on CNN. Over the course of 6 and a half minutes, Earnest said the word “strategy” no less than 11 times, and that does not include the times he used the word “plan” to describe what he urged was the president’s comprehensive approach to the ISIS threat:
Toward the end of the video, when CNN anchor John Berman noted that Earnest would obviously not be engaged in a media blitz if the president had been as clear as his press secretary insists, the Earnest became just a bit snippy.
“Anybody who looked at the news conference and looked at the president’s opening remarks saw very clearly that he laid out this strategy,” Earnest protested. “You can focus on whatever aspect of the press conference you would like, but if you want to actually understand what the president’s trying to communicate, I would urge you to take a close look at his words.”
That is just painful. The only reason why the White House has to play mop up today is because the world was paying extraordinarily close attention to the president’s words – all of them, not merely his prepared remarks.
One can feel a slight pang of sympathy for Earnest, who has been put in a terrible position by his boss, but the damage done yesterday by Obama has not been entirely mitigated by the press secretary’s impromptu news tour. There is in fact, some evidence that suggests Earnest is doing his cause more harm than good:
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) August 29, 2014
This is utterly inexplicable. An American was beheaded. Another is facing the same fate. The United States has been engaged in air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq for 21 days. The United Kingdom raised its terror threat level to severe – that threat being agents loyal to ISIS. And the press has learned that ISIS is investigating the prospect of executing biological terrorist attacks.
But we are not at war with ISIS.
UPDATE: Here is a great montage from Grabien featuring Josh Earnest saying the word “strategy” over, and over, and over again.