In attempting to downplay the political damage from a slew of second-term controversies, President Obama has counted on the American people having a very short memory span and a healthy suspension of disbelief. The time-tested strategy for Obama: Claim he’s in the dark about his own administration’s activities, blame the mess on subordinates, and hope that with the passage of time, all will be forgotten. Harry Truman, the president isn’t. He’s more likely to pass the buck.
His latest eyebrow-raiser came on 60 Minutes on Sunday, when the president blamed the failure to anticipate the rise of ISIS on his intelligence community for not informing him of the growing threat. “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said. Most early news reports dutifully pinned the blame on the intelligence agencies, with the president escaping any further scrutiny.
But anyone following the news over the past year would have been better informed than the commander in chief. As NBC foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel said on MSNBC Monday: “It’s surprising that the president said that U.S. intelligence missed this one, because it seems that U.S. intelligence was the only group that missed this one. Everyone knew that Islamic extremists were on the rise in Syria and in Iraq; it was well documented. The extremists were publicizing their activities online—they were bragging about it. Journalists, including us, were interviewing foreign fighters. This was no state secret.”