In an interview aired on Monday’s NBC Today show, Obama discovered that speaking to an actual journalist was a bit tougher than answering questions in the controlled White House media room.
NBC’s Savannah Guthrie called out “passive” Obama for using a “straw man” by pretending his political opponents are eager to put U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
Prior to Super Bowl Sunday, co-host Guthrie called out Obama over his handling of the war on terrorism: “You said in your State of the Union that American leadership is helping to stop the advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But your critics say that is delusional, that in fact they’ve gained more territory since the air strikes have begun.”
Obama defensively replied: “That’s not accurate. In Iraq what we’ve seen is the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces continue to push back against ISIL. And those same critics that you suggest I imagine would have us redeploy tens of thousands of U.S. troops-” Guthrie interrupted: “But isn’t that kind of a straw man? You often say that-” He testily shot back: “Hold on, Savannah, let me – it’s not a straw man. Let me finish what I’m saying.”
Obama continued and argued: “So this takes longer, but it’s the right way to do things.” Guthrie countered: “But aren’t there things you could be doing right now, short of a huge presence of ground troops inside Syria or Iraq, that would help this goal of what you say is to defeat ISIS happen more quickly? Couldn’t we be doing more?” He declared: “Anything that we’re doing – anything that we could be doing, Savannah, we are doing.”
Obama continued to show his frustration at having someone hold him accountable: “Savannah, you’ve repeated that comment three different ways…” He proceeded to take a shot at critics “who want us to shoot first and aim later” and “typically get this country into really bad situations.”