It has been a year since the country has seen President Obama quite as defensive as he was during Monday’s press conference at the conclusion of the G-20 summit in Turkey. Back in November 2014, he was reeling from a pummeling in the midterm elections. Today, the stakes are far higher as he fights for his antiterrorism strategy in the wake of the bloody massacre of civilians in Paris.
In his first extended public discussion of the trajectory of that policy after Paris, it did not go well for the president at the press conference in Antalya. He was on the defensive on his overall strategy, on his initial dismissal of the enemy’s strength, on his military response, on his diplomacy, and on his willingness to accept refugees from Syria. And there was no hiding his frustration.
There were 11 questions asked, but they all boiled down to two: Why did you underestimate the potency of the Islamic terrorists who seized so much territory in Iraq and Syria and struck in Paris with such brutality? And why isn’t your strategy working?
Jim Acosta of CNN was the most colorful in posing the question, asking, “Why can’t we take out these bastards?” Obama’s frustration was palpable: “Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question” was his immediate response. He tried again to outline his policy, only to have Ron Allen of NBC come back at him with, “Do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?” At that, the president complained of what he called “another variation on the same question.”