It is rare when the liberals at The Washington Post are openly critical of President Obama, but today is one of those days, as opinion writer Dana Milbank contrasts the stance that French president François Hollande took against terrorism with that of President Oh-bummer—his words—at the White House yesterday.
On the left, facing the cameras, was François Hollande, war president. He spoke of ‘cowardly murderers’ who ‘dishonor humanity,’ of a ‘relentless determination to fight terrorism everywhere and anywhere,’ of ‘an implacable joint response,’ of ‘hunting down their leaders’ and ‘taking back the land.’
On the right stood Barack Obama, President Oh-bummer.
Defeating the Islamic State?
‘That’s going to be a process that involves hard, methodical work. It’s not going to be something that happens just because suddenly we take a few more airstrikes.’
A political settlement in Syria?
‘It’s going to be hard. And we should not be under any illusions.’
Could the Paris attacks have been prevented?
‘That’s hard—that’s a hard thing to track. . . . That’s a tough job.’
Obama, in Turkey last week, responded to those who believe he isn’t tough enough on the Islamic State. ‘Some of them seem to think that if I was just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference,’ he said.
Milbank said that while tough talk won’t defeat the terrorists, it’s no coincidence that Hollande’s support has increased thanks to his tough response to the terrorist attacks in France, while Obama’s poll numbers have dipped after his tepid remarks.
He added that Hollande was “upbeat and can-do” while Obama was “discouraging and lawyerly” as he played down the threat of terrorism, opting for “Lake Michigan cool” while Hollande brought “Mediterranean heat.”
Milbank also pointed out the difference between the two men on Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane:
Asked about Turkey shooting down a Russian military plane, the two men had the same response—to avoid escalation—but voiced it in very different ways. The cerebral Obama said ‘this underscores the importance of us making sure that we move this political track forward.’ The visceral Hollande said, ‘The only purpose is to fight against terrorism’ and the Islamic State.
When Laura Haim of France’s Canal+ TV network asked if there was a deadline for ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, both men had the same policy: no timetable. But what they said after that highlighted their different styles.
Hollande spoke of a new era. ‘There is a new mind-set now,’ Hollande said. ‘And those who believed that we could wait’ now realize ‘the risk is everywhere . .?.?. We, therefore, must act.’
Then came President Oh-bummer.
‘Syria has broken down,’ he said. ‘And it is going to be a difficult, long, methodical process to bring back together various factions within Syria to maintain a Syrian state.’
Maybe you can motivate people when you sound so discouraging. But it’s hard.
Tough talk alone won’t defeat the terrorists, but Obama’s language only emboldens them and shows that he has no clear and effective strategy to combat ISIS and prevent possible future attacks on the U.S.